Monthly Archives: February 2016

Origin and Notes on “The Irish Blessing (May The Road Rise To Meet You)”

Hi Friends:

I always enjoy learning about how phrases or sayings came to be, and I have been thinking about, for some time now, looking at exactly where what is known as “The Irish Blessing” came from: Who wrote it, and how long ago was it written.

This simple, yet profound verse, which begins with, “May the road rise up to meet you,” is known world-wide as “The Irish Blessing,” and is perhaps the most popular of all Irish sayings. While I’m not Irish, I know, and have certainly heard, all of its words, in various forms, from many different sources, over the years.
Here is the full verse:

“May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you
In the palm of His hand.”

Over at Pastor Appreciation Gifts, our artwork featuring “The Irish Blessing” continues to be one of our most “looked up” works of art, throughout the year, and, most certainly, during the first part of the year. I have been amazed at how often visitors “land” on our website, from conducting a web search for “Irish Blessing.” So, I have been wanting to find out more. Plus, we are so blessed, by how many friends we have who visit our blog from Great Britain. Here is what I’ve learned:

First of all, no one knows who first wrote it. This surprised me. It is one of those verses which has been handed down, generation to generation, family to family, person to person, for so long, that no one can remember who “said it first.” Remember that so much of our history, especially family and local history, has survived in exactly the same way. It is known for certain, however, that it was an ancient Celtic prayer and blessing. I could not find one instance where the “land of origin” was in question. Everywhere I looked, I read the same type of introduction, beginning with something like, “This traditional Irish blessing is an ancient Celtic prayer …”

I learned about Celtic literature and history. I’ll be honest, and I think many of us are the same, with our only exposure to foreign culture being on television or in movies … when we think of “Celtic” we first think of incredibly talented performers, singers, and dancers … and, don’t realize the great culture and history of the Celtic people.
Who were, and are, the Celts? Officially, in our American definition, the simple definition of “Celt” is a member of a group of people (such as the Irish or Welsh) who lived in ancient Britain and parts of Western Europe, or a person whose ancestors were Celts. “The Irish Prayer” is also credited as being a “Gaelic” prayer. Which, you guessed it, made me find out exactly what that meant. I learned that “Gaelic” means “of or relating to the Celtic people of Scotland and Ireland.” These are things I thought I knew, but, really, needed to find out for sure. For our dear friends across the Pond, please understand that, over here, many of us don’t even know our next-door-neighbors, so please forgive us, as we are trying to learn …

It is historically accurate that “The Irish Blessing” came from … well … from Ireland. I learned that Celtic literature is known for using images of nature and everyday life to speak of how God interacts with His people. Remember-Jesus did the same thing! He used examples which His audience would be familiar with. As I learned about Celtic writing style, I was reminded that there are scholars who believe that “The Irish Blessing” was written by St. Patrick. It would certainly fit his writing style, as he would use nature in descriptive terms in his writing For example, one of his most famous works was “St Patrick’s Breastplate,” in which he described God’s strength by using examples from nature. However, as with the author of the book of Hebrews, it is not known for certain, only theorized due to writing style.

When we look at the words of this verse, beginning with “May the road rise up to meet you,” this prays God’s blessing on your journey. May it not be too difficult, without obstacles and challenges to overcome. Then, we see the images from nature: the wind, sun, and the rain. Historically, this points to God’s overall care and provision for us. Yes, the wind can be compared to God’s Spirit, in a word used to describe His arrival and presence, in Scripture. The sun easily represents warmth and comfort of God’s protection. The rain, a necessary part of growth, is prayed to be a soft, gentle rain.

My favorite part is the last:
“And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of His hand.”

That’s powerful.
By the way, there is a song to the words of this verse. I learned that Denes Agay (June 10, 1911 – January 24, 2007), an Hungarian composer, wrote the music for this verse.

Powerful words.
I think about whether it’s ok to write about a “blessing” that doesn’t include Scripture. Then, I think about the Patriarchs. How important it was that the head of a family would give his “blessing” to others. Maybe it was to family members (especially heirs), or visitors, or even strangers. How the word “blessing” is such a large part of human relationships. How it is the intent behind the words, and not just the words, which carry such power. I think about how we, in seeking to get approval of a plan, a goal, maybe a marriage, seek to gain someone else’s “blessing.” Think about it. The simple definition of blessing is “approval that allows or helps you to do something; help and approval from God; something that helps you or brings happiness.”

I think that covers it.
So, it’s ok to “give someone your blessing.” Even if you quote someone else’s words. And, if that person’s blessing can be written down, how encouraging that would be, as time goes by. So … it must be ok to bless someone … even if you quote someone else’s words … and, it must be ok to write that blessing down … to remind someone that they “have your blessing.”

It is no secret that I send along blessings to you, and your family, each time I write.
I mean it!

Here’s a look at the words of “An Irish Blessing (May the Road Rise to Meet You)” in art form, over at Pastor Appreciation Gifts:
302301-Gold

I like it!

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Psalm 117: Shortest Chapter, Longest Message

We recently had the great, and eye-opening opportunity to study the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. Its subject was the Word of God. Come to think of it, it still makes sense that, in the Bible, the written Word of God, the longest chapter is devoted to the authority, power, and relationship of the Word to man. How important the Word, His Word, is to us … and, to God.

It just seemed natural to, then, look at the shortest chapter in the entire Bible, which is only “2 chapters back” of the longest chapter. Bringing us to Psalm, chapter 117.

Only 2, yes 2, verses. But, I discover in studying this chapter, that, perhaps, I should sub-title this writing with something like, “Fewest Verses, Longest Vision.”
Man, talk about looking at the big picture!
Yes, the chapter is, perhaps, “set apart” by being the shortest, but it is also set apart for another reason: It is the only Psalm which is strictly addressed to the Gentile world. It clearly sees the same vision other Old Testament writers saw … that the Gospel … that Salvation … would be sent …would be offered … would be available … not only to the Jewish nation and its people … but, to “all of us.” As we’ll see, this was a message many Jewish believers did not want to hear, and was still an issue in Paul’s day. More on that later.

First, let’s consider that, Scripturally, there are only 2 races of people: The Jews and Gentiles. Period. All of us are in one of these 2 categories. Yes, that means just that. It would be fair to say that this message, the message and fact that all nations, all peoples of the “heathen” nations, would have salvation made available to them, was the hottest, most debated topic of the very, very early church. Things haven’t changed much, have they? How God can offer the same salvation, the same eternal life, the same spiritual gifts, etc., to “everyone,” even those we consider to be “unsavable.” How, in God’s eyes, we are all, really the same … all are lost without Jesus, regardless of culture, class, or whatever else may “divide” us. And, that God offers the same salvation to everyone … regardless of where they live … and … I know this hurts some folks … but, the same salvation is offered to everyone, regardless of what they have done … what lifestyle they are now living … regardless of … regardless of … they are offered the same salvation which … which … which … we were offered …

Wow! This is supposed to be about the shortest chapter … I think the fact that its content has even led to this conversation proves the power of the message contained in these 2 verses. And, not only that, but the verses aren’t even that long to begin with!

It occurs to me that, already, there’s about a hundred lessons just in what we’ve covered so far!

OK, I must say it: Sometimes, the hardest thing for us to understand, to “get,” is that God may not approve of someone’s lifestyle, just like He didn’t approve of ours, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t love them. It doesn’t mean that the same saving grace which saved us … can’t save them. Jew and Gentile. Really, still, even within these two groups (yes, they are different groups!), it still all boils down to only 2 groups of people in the world today: Saved and Lost. That’s it. Period. Those who are lost need to be saved. Those who are saved need to reach out to those who are lost. Regardless of who, or where, they are. Have things changed since Paul’s time? How difficult is it for us to reach our hands-and hearts-out to people who are different from us? I mean … surely the Gospel message is not meant for them, too???

All this from Psalm 117? Only 2 verses???

How Great God is! If we could just catch hold of His vision! I’ll say this again: God knows what He is doing. Even if we don’t know what He’s doing … even when it seems that what He is doing goes “against the grain.” I’ll even write this: It’s a good thing He’s in charge, and not me. I think one of the greatest “against the grain” things that God ever did happened right there at the “beginning” of the Church. Think about this, as we ponder the “differences” between Jew and Gentile. Think about how big a deal this was in the early days of the Church. Peter was, perhaps, (please keep this in context) the most “Gentile” of all the Disciples. What did God do? Put him in charge of the Church in Jerusalem. Paul was, perhaps, (please keep this in context) the most “Jewish” man who ever lived. What did God do? Put him in charge of taking the Gospel message to the Gentile world … Indeed, revealing to him “the mystery of the Gospel …”

Taking the Gospel to the Gentile world. Whose idea was that? It was God’s idea all along. Yes, Jesus came first to the Jewish nation … but, when they rejected Him … the door opened for “everyone else” to have the opportunity … the same opportunity … While, yes, there is still the “Jewish Nation/Family,” we are just as important a part of that family … by adoption into that family … A “hidden” message, sprinkled throughout the Old Testament …

I think I see another hundred lessons …

Back to Psalm 117: There have been some scholars who didn’t think that this Psalm “stood alone;” that it should have been a part of Psalm 116. However, Psalm 117 has the basic 3 elements of a “Psalm,” or “hymn of praise”: It clearly has a call to praise, “O Praise the Lord, all ye nations (Gentiles); praise him, all ye people.” It has a reason for this praise, “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.” Then, it finishes with a conclusion, “Praise ye the Lord.” By the way, for those who thought this chapter should have been just added to finish Psalm 116, that Psalm already has a clear conclusion of … “Praise ye the Lord.”

With its call to praise, addressed to the Gentile nations, and the word “people” meaning “all ye peoples,” there is no question that the Psalmist is clearly focusing on God’s interest and desire to save the “Gentile Peoples,” resulting in their praise for, and to, Him.

Is Psalm 117 the exact center of the Bible? Well … I must ask you to independently search for this answer. When you do, you will find that some say it is chapter 118, and some say it is chapter 117. I say that both are really great chapters … and, you should read and study both.
Again, I ask you to search for this. Here’s a sample of what I found:

For those who favor Psalm 118:
Fact: There are 594 chapters before Psalms 118
Fact: There are 594 chapters after Psalms 118
Add these numbers up and you get 1188
Q: What is the center verse in the Bible?
A: Psalms 118:8
Q: Does this verse say something significant about God’s perfect will for our lives?

The next time someone says they would like to find God’s perfect will for their lives and that they want to be in the center of His will, just send them to the center of His Word!

Psalms 118:8
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
Now isn’t that odd how this worked out (or was God in the center of it)?

(I just wanted you to read that!)

Then, for those who believe Psalm 117 is the center of the Bible, I found this:
“According to independent research, the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible contains 1189 chapters; Psalm 117 is the 595th; there are 594 chapters before Psalm 117, and 594 after it. Thus, it is 117, not 118, that is the center chapter of the Bible.

Here is what Charles Spurgeon wrote, in his “The Treasury of David”:
“This Psalm, which is very little in its letter, is exceedingly large in its spirit; for, bursting beyond all bounds of race or nationality, it calls upon all mankind to praise the name of the Lord. It is both short and sweet. It may be worth noting that this is at once the shortest chapter of the Scriptures and the central portion of the whole Bible.”

We spoke of the Apostle Paul earlier. The verses of Psalm 117 are one of 4 passages of Old Testament Scripture which Paul used, in Romans, chapter 15, to prove that God’s plan is to save Gentiles. Again, this was perhaps the most hotly debated topic during the days of the early Church, to which Paul would repeatedly write that, in God’s eyes, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, bondman or free, etc. Paul wrote, “that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written …” Then, Paul would quote from Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah. In so doing, to prove his point, Paul quoted from the Psalms, the Law, and the Prophets.

So, in closing, “O Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye peoples. For his merciful kindness (loving-kindness) is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.
Praise ye the Lord.”

Richard. Vincent. Rose.

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From Modern-Day Psalms for Valentine’s Day: “Don’t Weep for Me: Mama Version”

Don’t Weep For Me (Mama Version)
Introduction

When I read “Don’t Weep for Me” at a memorial service, I always change the paragraph about military service, to fit the life of the one to whom the service is being given for, always leaving the “bosom of Abraham” reference to close that personalized paragraph.

When my beloved Mother went to be with Jesus, it was early on Valentine’s Day … February 14, 2013. During the period of mourning that followed, I wanted to re-write “Don’t Weep for Me” in honor of Mama.

I went in and added words that detailed what she most loved in her life: Jesus, and her family.
Mama loved the Psalms; it was her favorite book. I also could not leave out the fact that, when Jesus came and got her, it was Valentine’s Day.

Something else about Valentine’s Day: February 14th is also my mother-in-law’s birthday, who passed away on Good Friday, in 2003. Let’s just say that neither of those days will ever be the same again.

Please allow me to comfort and encourage you with these words:
As a parent, when it comes to your children, there are three things you most worry about when they are away from the house, gone with friends, etc. These would be:
1. Where they are.
2. Who they are with.
3. When will you see them again?

Now, as a loving son … when Mama left us … so much of the pain and agony was taken away, because:
1. I knew where she was.
2. I knew who she was with.
3. I knew that I would see her again.

Don’t Weep For Me
Mama Version

Don’t weep for me
If you could see
What I now see
You would not weep … you would shout “Victory!”

I know that only sadness now you feel
But, you need to know that Heaven is real
If you could only see the streets of gold, the pearly gate
You would not cry, you might even envy my fate

The skies are always sunny, bathed in God’s own light
There is no more rain, no clouds, and no more night
I’ve left behind sickness, heartache, and pain
No more tears, broken dreams; for now, all is gain

For, here, there is no more sorrow, poverty, or lack
I can tell you now-I don’t ever want to go back
Back to the earth, and the trials every day …
No, I’ll take Jesus, and peace … right here I will stay

Don’t weep for me now
You don’t know what you do!
Don’t wish I was there
For if you only knew!

On Thursday, February 14th, at 2:45
It was not that I died, I became alive
I have no more sickness, no more pain
There will be no more clouds, no thunder, no rain

It was no coincidence
That it was Valentine’s Day
When the One I most loved took me away
Waiting for you
Here I will stay
The Lord is my Shepherd-Trust Him today
I fought the good fight
The good race I ran
And now I’ve landed safely
In the bosom of Abraham

For, here in eternity I will forever rest
And walk down these streets with the one called “Blessed”
For I have reached my eternal reward
With the chorus of saints I join in one accord

I don’t have time now to shed just one tear
I can only hope that one day, you too, will be here
My body I’ve left, but why should you grieve?
I’ve traded it all for this new body I’ve received

I’m singing right now, and laughing out loud
If you could see me right now, I know you’d be proud
I trusted in Jesus, and Jesus alone
I traded my hospital bed to sit on God’s throne

There should be only one reason for you all to cry
And that is to not know where you’ll go when you die
For one day you’ll die and you’ll be right here
But, if you’ve trusted in Jesus, you’ll have nothing to fear

I’ll wait, and I’ll wait for you to decide
If you don’t trust Jesus, then I’ll be the one who cried

So, don’t weep for me
You know the gospel is true
Follow its course
Lest, from above, I weep for you

So, just remember, if you start to cry
Instead, just look up at that big, blue sky
I’m looking down to tell you again, just like days gone by,
That “God loves you … and … so do I …”

Blessings to you, and your family,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

Modern Day Psalms: Available at all online book retailers!

Modern Day Psalms:
Available at all online
book retailers!

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Psalm 119: The Wonder and Wisdom of “The Word”

Hi Friends:

For the last several days, I have been studying Psalm 119. I have read the entire chapter many times in the past, but, in sitting and studying the words this time, it’s like I had never read it before. God is so good, as He is always revealing new things to us, each time we read His Word, and I think He takes great pleasure in giving us new insight into something we have read many times. Yes, “Wisdom is gained every time we open the Bible and read His Word,” as an old, old bookmark I have still reminds me.

I think it can be said that in all the great chapters and passages in the Bible, Psalm 119 stands alone. It is a written monument to the importance of God’s Word. In fact, it is God’s Word that is the sole subject of the chapter. We all know that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, with its 176 verses. How important is it that we read, study, believe, and learn the Word of God? How important is God’s Word to us? Let’s put it this way: What is the single subject matter of the longest chapter in the Bible? God’s Word.

As I read and studied the chapter, I learned so many things that make this chapter unique. Of course, we always begin any conversation with the length of the chapter. But, it is the way the chapter is arranged that sets it apart. Like many of the Psalms, it is an “acrostic.” An acrostic is when sets of letters (such as the first letter of a line) are written in order: “A composition, usually in verse, in which sets of letters (as the initial or final letters of the lines) taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet.” The Hebrew alphabet had 22 letters. Usually, when writing an acrostic verse, only one verse per letter of the alphabet is used. In other words, each line would begin with a letter, the next verse begins with the next letter of the alphabet, and so on. In Psalm 119, there are 8 verses for each letter … that is why Psalm 119 has 22 stanzas: One stanza for each letter … 8 verses for each letter … 22 letters in the alphabet … 8 verses per letter … equals 176 verses! Amazing! Yes, I had to go back and look at each stanza … 8 … 16 … 24 … all the way to 176! For this reason, the chapter is also referred to as an “Alphabet Psalm.” There is a tradition that King David used this Psalm to teach his son Solomon the alphabet. It’s also thought that King David taught his son to not just use this alphabet for writing letters, but as an alphabet for spiritual life.

Perhaps the one word most associated with the Psalms would be “praise.” In Psalm 119, the entire chapter is a “praise” song for God’s Word: Its authenticity, its value, and its purpose. Here’s the number 8 again: There are 8 words which repeat, over and over, throughout the chapter, and they all have to do with the Word of God: Word, Law, Statues, Commandments, Judgements, Precepts, Testimonies, and Thy/His Ways. All of these words stand as synonyms for the Word of God, revealed to man. Here we have the longest chapter in the Bible, 176 verses, and the Word of God is mentioned in every verse, but three! Reading God’s Word … learning God’s Word … knowing God’s Word … hearing God’s Word … and … and … keeping God’s Word close to us must be of the utmost value and importance. Another word which appears repeatedly throughout the chapter is “quicken,” which means “revive.”

Who wrote Psalm 119? Not sure. It is one of the 61 Psalms which credit the author as “anonymous.” Just as with the book of Hebrews, there is debate over authorship, and the list is only a couple of names. For Psalms 119, as with Hebrews, it comes down to writing style. It is believed that either King David wrote Psalm 119 (compiled over his lifetime), or Ezra wrote it. But, consider this: The ultimate Author of Scripture is God Himself, using men to write, as inspired by the Holy Spirit. That’s why you need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the Scriptures … Who better to get the true meaning from … than the Author?

Psalm 119 is approximately the same length as the books of Ruth, James, or Philippians.

I never miss an opportunity to encourage people to read the entire book of Psalms. People, especially those reading the Bible for the first time, will ask me, “Where should I start?” While it is easy to say, “At the beginning,” which, of course, isn’t a bad idea, I always suggest the book of John … and, the book of Psalms. If they will, seriously, read either … it will make them want to read more. I think that one of the reasons Psalms is so “popular” (if I may use that word in context) is that they are so easy to understand, and they express so well the feelings that we all share. Plus, and I think this is important when someone is first learning to start devoting time to Scripture reading every day, the Psalms are easy to read an entire chapter in one sitting … I can’t remember a time when I have read through the book of Psalms, and, every chapter I read, every time, spoke directly to something I was going through at the time.

I’ve known so many people who have told me that Psalms was their favorite book. This includes my Mom, who, like all of us when going through difficult times, turn to the Psalms … and, in particular, favorite Psalms. Time and again, it is the peace and comfort found in the Psalms that give us “just what we need” for any situation we are facing. C.S. Lewis said that, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.” And, R.C. Sproul said that, “Whenever I read the Psalms, I feel like I am eavesdropping on a saint having a personal conversation with God.”

There is just a special “connection” we feel with the Psalms. And, so many of us keep going back to our favorite verses within the 119th chapter. For instance, John Calvin preached 22 sermons (one for each stanza) from Psalm 119. Here is this statement about one of those great, “we all know” verses from Psalm 119, from Thomas Watson: “I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11. The Word, locked up in the heart-is a preservative against sin. As one would carry an antidote with him when he comes near an infected place-so David carried the Word in his heart as a sacred antidote to preserve him from the infection of sin.” Wow! That was really good!

Charles Spurgeon liked Psalm 119 so much, that he said, “We might do well to commit it to memory.” Commit it to memory. I know that most of us know, maybe, Psalm 23 by heart … but all 176 verses of Psalm 119? We wrote that there is a belief that King David used this Psalm to teach Solomon. It has been suggested that Psalm 119 may have been written as an acrostic poem so that it would be easier to memorize. The words of this particular Psalm were considered to be that important! I’ve learned that there have, indeed, been some pretty famous people who have made a point to memorize the entire chapter … all 176 verses. Some people you may know, who were known to have the entire Psalm memorized, include William Wilberforce (19th century British politician who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire), Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, Henry Martyn (19th century pioneer missionary to India), and David Livingstone (19th century pioneer missionary to Africa).

These examples epitomize the words of verse 11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart …” meaning “to deposit or place” in my heart. Which leads me to the question of which are my favorite verses from Psalm 119? Who could pick? Allow me to write that there are so many, and, on any given day, every verse could “stand out” as being just what God wants me to learn for today. There were a couple of verses I specifically wrote down, as I went through. One was verse 160, which personally responded to my last writing about why believing God’s account of creation was important: “Thy word is true from the beginning.” This spoke to me about what I had written about believing God’s Word from the very “beginning.” I’m working on the “Wealth Stored for the Righteous” series, which speaks so much about the benefits we have right now … so, verse 162 spoke to me about what should be tops on our list of wealth we already possess: “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great treasure.” Verse 42 repeats what we should say, constantly: “I trust in thy word.” And, not just trust: “I hope in thy word” (verses 81, 114). Another treasure we have is the assurance that God is always with us, that “thou art near” (verse 151).

What a great, great chapter. What Words! No wonder I am “in awe of thy word” (verse 161).
I am reminded that, besides Isaiah, the book of Psalms is most quoted in the New Testament. I am also reminded that this chapter praises the Word … and, that Jesus is, literally, the Word in human form. The Word made flesh. When we praise Jesus, we are praising His Word, and when we are praising the Word, we are praising Him. You can’t separate Jesus from the Word.

I will close with another example of someone from history who had memorized the entire chapter of Psalm 119. I found this same story on several different sources, so I will share this with you:

George Wishart was the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 17th century. Wishart was condemned to death, and was scheduled to be executed. But, when he was on the scaffold, he made use of a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one Psalm to be sung, and he chose Psalms 119:1-176. Before two-thirds of the psalm was sung, his pardon arrived and his life was spared.

Please read Psalm 119.
And … the rest!

Blessings to you, and your family,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

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