Friday, February 25, 2011

Irish hymn writers and an Irish Tune

Here is Kristyn Getty singing, "What Grace is Mine." You'll recognize the tune as "Danny Boy" or "Londonderry Air." Then she sings "In Christ Alone," one of my favorite hymns.

"I bow my heart, take my cross and follow Him."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Welcome, Lewis and Clark Ladies!

Here's a little welcome video from me to the Bible study meeting at Lewis and Clark Bible Church in Astoria, Oregon.

If you're looking for the music listed on page one, it's here.

Thank you again for taking this journey of prayer with me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Soundtrack

Each chapter of Sacred Signposts includes a hymn. These are my favorite arrangements. This is the list on page one. And no, that's not my typo in the first song. That's Itunes' typo.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ribbon Roads: Countdown to St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is a month away! My husband and I were incredibly blessed to spend six days in Ireland in 2007. Here is a song from Keith and Kristyn Getty describing the "Ribbon Roads" winding up and down the green hills of Ireland. I love this song because it describes not only some great memories of Ireland, but the winding road of life: looking back, looking forward, keeping the Journey's End in view. And as we meditate on our life's journey, we see, to paraphrase Patrick, "Christ Over Us, Christ beside us on our left and our right."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Introducing St. Patrick

St. Patrick was a missionary to Ireland around the year 400 A.D. In the century before his birth, Christianity had become not only legal, but also the official religion of the Roman Empire. Patrick was born into a religious family in the Roman province of Britannia (now England), but he wasn't very interested in spiritual things as a young boy. When he was about fourteen Patrick was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland, a wild pagan land that even the Romans never attempted to conquer. There Patrick became a slave and a shepherd, and during the long lonely days with the sheep, he remembered the God his family worshiped, and he began to pray. In Patrick's own words:

There the Lord brought me to a sense of my unbelief, that I might, even
at a late season, call my sins to remembrance, and turn with all my heart to the
Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, and, taking pity on my youth and
ignorance, guarded me, before I understood anything, or had learned to
distinguish between good and evil, and strengthened and comforted me as a father
does his son.

Eventually, he escaped from Ireland and returned to his home. But he could not forget the Emerald Isle, and he began to have dreams about Irish people calling him to come and tell them about the true God.

Patrick studied for the ministry and sought the approval of the church in Rome. Church denominations and mission organizations did not yet exist, but Rome was the superpower government of its day and Christianity was its official religion. Thus, having the approval of the church at Rome was helpful if one was setting out to convert a barbarian nation. Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary—one of the first missionaries to venture beyond the reaches of the Roman Empire. There may have been a few Christians scattered through Ireland before Patrick's arrival; some historians think these Christians asked the Roman church to send a missionary to build churches and oversee the congregations.

Though some pagans opposed Patrick, many Irish people responded to him and believed in Jesus Christ. Patrick founded monasteries throughout Ireland, which were apparently more like our modern seminaries than to the later medieval monasteries. These institutions trained men to minister—and did not require their students to be unmarried or to take vows of poverty. Later, Irish monks began monasteries in Europe, where Scriptures were copied and preserved throughout the middle ages.

The Irish Christians loved and respected Patrick, and after his death, fanciful tales began to spring up about his life; centuries later it is a little difficult to sort out exactly which elements of these stories are true, but Patrick's own short autobiography did survive, known as “The Confession of St. Patrick.”

The prayer I chose as the outline for this study is a modern translation of a segment of a longer poem often attributed to Patrick. The entire poem is known as “The Breastplate of St. Patrick” or “The Lorica of St. Patrick”. Before their conversion to Christianity, the people of Ireland composed many poems known as “loricae” asking for the protection of their pagan gods. Patrick's poem was something new, a prayer for protection addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Several accounts of Patrick's life state that he prayed this prayer while being pursued by pagans, and that while he prayed, his attackers passed right by him, seeing a herd of deer instead of Patrick and his friends.

Patrick wrote a short autobiography that he called his “Confession”. He was very humble about his success as an evangelist, often lamenting his lack of education (his studies were interrupted by his years in slavery). He marveled that God had chosen him to be a missionary:

Who am I, O Lord, or what is my calling, that Thou hast granted me so much of
Thy Divine presence? So that at this day I can constantly rejoice among the
nations, and magnify Thy name wherever I may be, not only in prosperity, but in
adversity [teaching me] that I ought to accept with a contented mind whatever
may befall me, whether good or evil, and always give thanks to God, who showed
me that I should believe in Him for ever.

This is an excerpt from Sacred Signposts, Chapter One, copyright 2009. (You can read Patrick's Confession here.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Praying the Psalms: an excerpt from Chapter 1

Sometimes I pray a Psalm exactly as it is written, whispering the words of Scripture directly to God. Other times I mediate on the words of a Psalm and respond to God with a prayer prompted by His word. Let me illustrate: when I read the twenty-third Psalm, I pray “Even when I go through the darkest valley I fear no danger; for You are with me” (verse 4) just as it is written, but when I read “He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name's sake” (verse 3) I might respond, “Lord, You have renewed my life! You have guided me on the right paths! Thank You!”

As you read the twenty-third Psalm today, meditate on the Lord's guidance and presence in your life. If the Psalm reminds you of specific blessings, stop and praise God for them.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name's sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley
I fear no danger, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live. (Psalm 23:1-6)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why read Psalms in a study of Paul and Patrick?

Each daily reading in Sacred Signposts ends with a selection of Psalms relating to the theme of the chapter. Why are we reading the Psalms when we're studying Paul and Patrick? Because the Psalms were their prayer patterns too. Psalms was the prayer book of Israel, and Paul, as a devout Jew, would have read and recited this book often. Like Paul, many of the first Christians were Jews, and they kept right on praying the Psalms. The early Irish church followed this tradition too, and thus we can assume that Patrick prayed these prayers as well.
I chose to include segments of Psalms in this study because I think it's the easiest way to jump right into praying Scripture. Psalms gives us a pattern for praying honestly as well as eloquently—not because God doesn't hear simple spur-of-the-moment prayers (He does!), but because, when circumstances allow, He is worthy of thoughtful meditative prayer. Praying the Psalms also inserts a note of triumphant praise into our prayers, lifting our gaze from our needs and our requests to focus on the Lord Himself.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Psalms for Wednesday

Sometimes when I read Psalms, I am awed by the whole-hearted desire for God expressed by the authors. If I am praying these statements to God, am I being honest? Or are my desires half-hearted at best? I try to turn my thoughts and questions into prayer, asking God to give me a firmer commitment to prayer, a greater love for His word, and a consuming desire for Himself.

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You; my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water...
My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips. (Psalm 63:1,3-5)
Your righteousness reaches heaven, God,
You who have done great things;
God, who is like You?
You caused me to experience many troubles and misfortunes,
but You will revive me again.
You will bring me up again,
even from the depths of the earth.
You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.
Therefore, with a lute I will praise You
for Your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing to You with a harp,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to You
because You have redeemed me. (Psalm 71:19-22)

Lord, You know my longing for a deeper prayer life. You know I want to speak with You, not just demand Your help or read my prayer list. Give me the desire, the tools, and the time.

This is an excerpt from Sacred Signposts, chapter one.