Monthly Archives: September 2023


Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.

You shall eat of the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. Psalm 128:1-4, NRSV A Song of Ascents

Granted, this is from the gentleman’s perspective – wife and children the elements of his family. Looking at these four verses, you could say something like this: do what is right and work hard, and you will be blessed with a good wife and multiple children…and others will call you blessed when they see this. Most of us know that a blessed life doesn’t always look like this. It’s a limited perspective, but not a bad one.

It’s easy enough to expand on this, to see something more behind and through the words than the man. Fruitfulness doesn’t have to be about having children, but about living a beautiful life that honors God, self, and neighbor – and having this valued and respected by one’s beloved. Growing children don’t necessarily have to be biologically related; providing a safe, welcoming, loving place to grow can be for any number of young ones and can take on many different forms.

If I take time to fall through the words instead of getting stopped by their particularity, I’ll find a blessing rather than an impediment.


Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

Psalm 128:1-2, NRSV

This is a good psalm for understanding what it means to fear God: if everyone who fears God is happy, then fear is not terror and God is not a wrathful being just waiting for an excuse to rain fire down upon the unfortunate soul who makes a mistake. I think fear is closer to awestruck; the presence of God is so overwhelming and all-encompassing that we find ourselves in way over our heads. Instead of being scared to death, we are scared to life – not a comfortable feeling, but an amazing one.

This is also a good psalm for understanding what happens when we walk in God’s ways. Showing compassion for those in need, being honest in our dealings with others, refusing to become so jealous of others that we lose all sense of joy and peace – these actions make us happy. No amount of wealth gained by illicit or immoral means can do that.

And what about eating the fruit of the labor of our own hands? Earning our living by working at something rather than being given money without the work points to a reality that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes: there is dignity, honor, and satisfaction in labor.

It’s something most of us know on a deep level, these truths about what makes life good. It’s ironic that the cultural ideal of a no-work self-centered life that promises carefree happiness is a sure way to an unhappy life…


Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

Sons(and daughters!) are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.

Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.

He shall not be put to shame when he speak with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127, NRSV. A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Except for a few people, no one will remember me or the work I did during my lifetime. The pictures and books I treasure will find their way to Goodwill, a thrift store, or the local transfer station. The rooms I call home, the garden beds I tend – all of these will be handed on to people who have no idea that I once loved and cared for them.

The same is true of most everyone, with the occasional Shakespeare, Bach, and O’Keefe exceptions. A few may slap their names on plaques to prove they donated money or designed buildings, but no one really pays much attention to those a couple of decades after the dedication ceremonies. It is in vain that any of us lose sleep and perspective over things that won’t survive beyond us – or keep our names alive past our own lifespan.

Unless the point of work isn’t for personal glory and immortality. Unless the point of it all is to add our own unique talents and efforts to creating the beautiful kingdom of love and peace that is God’s blessing and intention for all of creation. Unless I find joy in the work itself and don’t expect it to be a testament to my existence.

Once I give up the need to be immortalized through my own efforts, I have no need to be anxious. I won’t lose sleep over it, because I know the truth: God holds my life and will not forget me. The same is true of you. The same is true of everyone.

Fortunes Restored

What comes to mind when you hear or read the words, fortunes restored? I think of a decaying manor house set in an English countryside, and a once prominent family with no means to restore it. There are a brother and a sister there, living in just a couple of the many rooms, taking care of a grandfather who is lost in memories of hunting parties and better days. A royal appointment, an advantageous but still for love marriage, or an industrious business returns family and manor to genteel prosperity and a deep generosity.

Perhaps an impoverished orphan who was once wealthy is discovered, and a distant relative or friend of the family comes to claim the child and everyone lives happily ever after (The Little Princess).

There are many other scenarios, but in all of them the fortune restored is a family’s wealth and former golden lifestyle. If it’s a Hollywood version, they live happily and more kindly ever after – deserving recipients of all that is regained.

That’s not what Psalm 126 is about. The fortunes restored are restored to a people, not a family or individual. Restoration was a return home and freedom to rebuild and worship at the Temple. Walking to Jerusalem, praying this psalm, surrounded by pilgrims all going up to the Temple: this is living the dream – who wouldn’t shout for joy?

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. Psalm 126, NRSV

Temptation Within Reach

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people from this time on and forevermore.

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous might not stretch out their hands to do wrong.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.

But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers. Peace be upon Israel!

Psalm 125, NRSV

How profound it must have been to ascend toward Jerusalem while reciting this psalm. Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people from this time on and forevermore. The powerful nature of a mountain is most apparent to those who scale it, and its enveloping presence to those who gaze down from its height. As a people, to be surrounded by God’s presence as the mountains surround Jerusalem – what a powerful and palpable image to call on when inevitable difficulties arise.

The second powerful image: wickedness as a scepter – a symbol of power and rank, something to aspire to and seek. Wickedness as something that is powerful and appealing, something that looks beautiful, something hard to resist. Walking toward a cosmopolitan city, a seat of power, is walking toward those who hold what a scepter represents. The thoughts start coming…think of all the good I could do if I had power; think how much better life would be if I didn’t have to worry about money problems; how wonderful it would be to be the envy of others…

Evil is appealing, at least on the surface. What a wise thing to pray that the scepter of wickedness be removed. Because even the righteous can be tempted.

A Parrot Head Thank You

I’ve loved Jimmy Buffett’s music since Come Monday came out. I learned his songs on LP, cassette, CD, DVD (sound tracks), and now through a streaming service. I love his originals and the remakes: James Taylor’s Mexico, John Denver’s Nothin’ But A Breeze, Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl. I’ve read The Jolly Mon to my sons and his novels for myself.

I danced my sons off to bed with Barometer Soup and Banana Wind. I did know by heart all the songs on Songs You Know By Heart. When I heard Fruitcakes on the radio while driving from New Jersey to New Hampshire, I pulled in to the next strip mall that had a record store to buy it [The only other time I did that: Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth].

Were there Buffett songs I didn’t care for? A few. Did I waste away in Margaritaville? No. Did I see in his word and music a troubadour? Absolutely. There was so much fun to his music, with not a little philosophy and a smidge of theology thrown in. Written on album sleeves and written on my heart so many songs.

Blessings and Peace, Jimmy Buffett. And profound thanks for your life’s work.

Remembering Bud

He was the new Suffragen (assisting) bishop when we moved into the Diocese of Massachusetts. He and his wife hosted all the new clergy and their spouses for dinner a few months later at their home in Needham. That was in 2002.

In the past twenty-one years, I’ve worked with Bud many times. He began a summer program for families at the Barbara C. Harris camp that offered family and faith friendly gatherings in the Monadnock region. Guitar in hand, he visited churches almost every Sunday. He had a passion for children’s ministry and a willingness to sing silly and sacred songs.

When he retired, he and his wife, Ruth Ann, settled in Plymouth and chose Christ Church in Plymouth for their church home. His passion for environmental awareness and appreciation continued in his work with the Creation Care movement; he encouraged churches to have energy audits and to adopt earth friendly practices. He and his wife sponsored local families at Christmas, shopping for gifts and the much needed food cards.

Bud Cederholm died peacefully in his sleep a few days ago. He touched so many lives, including mine. I am thankful for the many times I saw his love for God’s children grace the world.