Category Archives: Learn it

Authentic

I’ve decided to start a new series of posts based on the Bible studies I’ve been writing for the young women at our church. This series is called authentic. Did you know authentic by definition means real, genuine, not copied or false–but my favorite part of the definition is the last made to be or look just like an original

Genesis 1:26-28 says:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own  image, in the mage of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

(ESV, emphasis mine)

That means God literally created us to be authentic–just like the original (himself)–with power, authority and ownership over the things of this earth. 

Stock photo from www.pexels.com

His word is filled with examples of God drawing his people back into their true authentic purpose. It is not a collection of fairy tales or outdated history. It is alive and can teach us about our lives and our own God-given purpose. These stories teach us to be authentic and remind us who the real protagonist of the Bible is. Not us, but God.

Stay tuned for the first installment (published 8/12/18)

From Beginning to End

From Beginning to End (MJT Psalm 145-150)

We have a lot of reasons to praise our God, our father, and the last 5 psalms are perfect reminders that we should. We are created to begin and end our lives with praise to the one who loved us enough to create and redeem us.  The one who created us to engage the world as though we matter, because to Him, we do. SO for this FINAL journey through Psalm post, I will be the journalist and list who should praise, how we should praise, where/when we should praise and finally WHY we should praise Him.

Who should Praise God
  1. Angels (148: 2)
  2. Heavenly Hosts (148:2)
  3. Sun/Moon/Stars (148:3)
  4. Skies and Weather (148: 4 & 8)
  5. Sea creatures (148: 7)
  6. Ocean Depths (148: 7)
  7. Vegetation and Land (148: 9)
  8. Land and Sky Creatures (148: 10)
  9. Rulers of Men (148:11)
  10. Young men and women (148:12)
  11. Old men and women (148: 12)
  12. Children (148: 12

So….everyone and everything God created should praise him. I also find it interesting that these are listed basically in the order that God created them (a throwback to Genesis 1).

How God Should be Praised
  1. Through song (149: 1)
  2. Through rejoicing and gladness (149: 2)
  3. Through dancing (149:3)
  4. With musical instruments (149:3 & 150:3-5)
  5. By jumping on/out of bed (149: 5)
  6. Through our words/conversation (149:6)
  7. In battles, losses, and victories (149:6)
  8. Through executing justice (149:9)

So, basically, though, with and by everything we do and all that we feel.

When and Where We should Praise the Lord
  1. In His Sanctuary (150:1)
  2. In the heavens (150:2)
  3. Everyday (145:2)
  4. Everywhere (145:2)
  5. Forever (145:2 & 146: 2)
Why We Should Praise the Lord
  1. He is great beyond measure and comprehension (145: 3 & 150: 2)
  2. He performs mighty acts and wonderful/awesome works (145:5, 11-12 & 150:2)
  3. He is good and righteous (145:7, 9 & 17)
  4. He is gracious and compassionate (145: 8-9)
  5. He is slow to anger (145: 8)
  6. He is rich in love (145: 8, 13, & 17)
  7. His kingdom is everlasting (145: 13, 146:10)
  8. He is faithful to his promises (145: 13, 19 & 146:6)
  9. He is open and satisfies our needs (145:16 & 146:7)
  10. He is near to those who cry out  (145:18-19)
  11. He destroys the wicked (145:20, 146:9 & 147:6)
  12. He watches over and protects those who love him (145:20 & 147:12-14)
  13. He is the creator of everything (146:6, 147: 4, 8-10, 16-18 & 148:5)
  14. He upholds the cause of the oppressed, aliens, fatherless, and widows (146:7 & 9)
  15. He sets prisoners free (146:7)
  16. He gives sight to the blind (146:8)
  17. He is exalting (146:8 & 147:2)
  18. He heals the brokenhearted (147:3)
  19. He is understanding (147: 5)
  20. He sustains the humble (147: 6)
  21. He delights in strength and honor (147:10-11)
  22. He keeps order for his people (147:19-20)

And this is just from 5 psalms…go back through the rest and I guarantee you’ll find more to add to the list, but this is a great place to start.

And so let everyone, everywhere praise the Lord!

You’re Never Really Alone

You’re Never Really Alone (MJT Psalm 142-145)

A major theme I have noticed on this journey through Psalms is that you are never really alone, no matter how alone you feel.

Loneliness can be a debilitating feeling when it seems like everyone has forgotten you are alive and you are just floating in a vast sea of isolation; it is easy to drown in those motions. It’s true that no man (or woman) is an island. No, in this sea, you are more like a little boy trapped on a boat with a tiger (thanks Life Of Pi for that simile).

Fortunately, even in those moments when we feel we are about to be devoured by the ravenous tiger, we are not as alone as we may feel. This is the moment when calling out to God feels so pointless, but it is when we need to the most because he knows the way back to shore even when it seems impossible (and he can protect us while we journey there). 

If you have known me for any length of time you would know that I’m a slow processor of information. This is off-putting to a lot of people because I don’t always respond right away in conversation–or worse, I do and whatever I say makes sense in my head, but requires my conversation partner to clarify what they meant. My delayed processing sometimes makes conversations with me kind of difficult and people will often misjudge my silence for arrogance, shyness or stupidity…when often I wish people would just give me a moment. But we live in a fast-paced world and so I live a lot of my life in my own head. Because of this, I have a hard time letting people in when they do stick it out to be my friend. This leads to a lot of self-propagated isolation on a fairly regular basis. That tiger and I have been stranded on that boat more than once and finding my way back to shore can be exhausting.

But there’s something really cool about what happens when I let God roam in my head space with me. I have to make a concentrated effort to do this; it doesn’t come naturally to me. When I actually let down my guard and let Him tame the tiger instead of always trying to do it myself, He gives me a much-needed perspective shift that changes everything! Suddenly the water surrounding me is beautiful and life-giving and not a treacherous trap. It becomes a place to explore and the adventure becomes a learning opportunity. The tiger even turns into a companion–sometimes a kitten–to offer comfort and not a threat to my existence.  I’m no longer a trapped little child, but a grown person ready for battle–whatever that battle might be.

After David was anointed as future king, he went from fighting animals twice his size to battling men who towered over him (quite literally). He was just a boy when he defeated a giant and was then placed in command of an army of 1000 men, most of whom were likely older than he. Somehow he was to lead them into battle with bigger, more experienced Philistines, and what’s worse, his own King sent him out hoping he would die in battle. David had no experience and no support from those who were supposed to be his allies. But he didn’t need it! God had prepared him for the battles ahead because David let God be in control and at the center of everything he did.

And we can be the same. Because no matter what life throws at us, God is in control and He sets us free from whatever imprisons us, whether it is bitterness, shame, insecurity, hatred, lies…anything. Like David, I can Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm `143:8)

And so can you.

Listen, Learn, and Let Go

Listen, Learn, and Let Go (MJT Psalms 140-141)

I used to think the world was against me any time someone criticized a choice I made. Even if I asked for advice or wisdom on an issue, internally I would think what do they know anyway? They’re not living my life. They have no idea how to deal with my problems. 

I made enemies of a lot of people who were just looking out for me, or who were trying to help me grow and see things from a different perspective. I saw criticism as attacks, differing opinions as judgment, and advice as antagonism. I spent a lot of time and energy at war with people in my mind.

And then I became a teacher.

Quickly I realized other people have answers I scoured my world for because they had experience and knowledge. Life is lived in patterns, finding those patterns and learning from people who come before is the trick to good teaching–and good living.

Psalm 140 is a call from the poet to God for protection and rescue from the evil one(s). There are real enemies in our lives, and I suspect the poet actually experienced true persecution, but really when you look at life objectively there is just one enemy causing conflict with lies and deceit every day. As I read from 140 to 141 I realized for me it is less about an external enemy, but the enemies I create in my mind. The ones who preach pride, stubbornness, and grudge-holding that keep me isolated and angry. These lessons in 141 reflect the answers to defeating the enemies of 140 in three simple steps: Listen, Learn, and Let go.

LISTEN (Psalm 141:1-2)

When you call for God to hear you, you can’t forget to listen to his response. And not only hear it but really listen. There is a difference. God doesn’t ignore our cries for help, but sometimes we don’t like the answer and that pride keeps us from moving forward in all our relationships. More importantly, it keeps us from the growth and plans God desires for us. Plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11) because he knows us, and knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13).

LEARN (Psalm 141:3-5)

Learning from our own past mistakes is easy. Learning from the wise people in our lives is the hard part of growing and leaning into the plans God has for us. God has no desire to see us in pain, and if we are honest, most often we create our own sticky situations by not listening and learning from those who have already been there, done that. In Ecclesiastes 1:9,  Solomon aptly observes there is nothing new under the sun. Boy was he right. The more time I spend watching teenagers ignore my (and other’s) advice, the more I see the truth in this statement. And I get it. I once ignored a lot of advice, but imagine what rich lives we could live from the get-go if only we lived Psalm 141:5! Life is lived in patterns; it’s seen in literature over and over again and if we pay attention we can see it in our own lives. A lesson I wished I’d learned earlier.

LET GO (Psalm 141:8-10)

The most important lesson we can listen and learn from is ultimately to let go of what is not in our control–which really is everything. The famous missionary and Bible teacher Oswald Chambers put it this way in My Utmost for His Highest:

To become one with Jesus Christ, a person must be willing not only to give up sin, but also to surrender his [or her] whole way of looking at things. Being born again by the Spirit of God means that we must first be willing to let go before we can grasp something else.

Essentially, let go and let God! It’s funny how often we will cry out to God for something and then step in God’s way to try to grasp it for ourselves. Like Sarah (Genesis), to whom God promised a son, determined to fulfill the prophecy handed her maidservant to her husband. Sure, she got a son…sort of…but it created a whole mess of problems we still encounter in today’s world. *By the way, this is a pretty prominent theme in literature as well. See, patterns!*

Here’s my own example.

I have been asking God to meet my future husband for a long time. More than once I have asked God for direction and then decided, like Sarah, to take matters into my own hands. Why? Because I’m impatient. As a result, I have endured quite a few BAD internet dates. And I mean wishing you could crawl out the bathroom window bad. I have nothing against internet dating. In fact, I know quite a few people who have had success in meeting and marrying people they have met through one dating website or another. This knowledge has brought untold frustration and insecurities when nothing seemed to produce a similar success story in my own life.

And then I got so frustrated and exhausted, I was so broken I actually waited to hear from God (I know, I’m 32 years old, and I KNOW what I should do, but I don’t always do it. I’m human. Sorry to disappoint). Lo and behold, when I stopped to listen, I heard. One morning when I was cranky, sleep deprived, and annoyed by an internet match I really wanted to make work (the snarky comments about teachers in high school always being on their cell phones was really the straw that broke the camels back), I heard God speak.

Online dating is not the answer.

Aw man! Really, God? Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?! Do you know how much time, energy and money I have wasted?

Um, yeah. I did. You just weren’t listening. When are you going to learn to let go and let ME be God?

Ouch. Great question. I didn’t really like this answer, and complained about it more than once (okay…so what IS THE ANSWER? Crickets. Sigh. Okay). But soon I got confirmation from two separate sources that these were, in fact, God’s words for me.

So I put on my big girl panties and did my best to listen, learn, and let go. But I am a work in progress (as are we all), which is why the big BUT in Psalm 141:8 holds so much promise for me. I keep doing these things Lord: doubting, fighting, crying out…

But my eyes are fixed on you, o Sovereign Lord…

And when this is true for me, when we truly fix our eyes on HIM and not on ourselves. When we listen, learn, let go, and let God work “we pass by in safety” all the days of our lives, no matter what our future might be.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: (My journey through Psalms 139)

I remember the first time I heard the song “Every Breath You Take” by Sting and the Police. The tune is so incredibly familiar it is easy to start singing and not even realize the words you are saying, but I’ve always been fascinated by words, so halfway through the song, I was kind of like…what on Earth am I singing about. This is not what love is. Is it?

The idea of one person claiming that ‘Oh can’t you see, you belong to me,” is a little disconcerting, to say the least. Even in a committed relationship, I personally wouldn’t want to belong to someone, which would imply that I am some sort of possession to be had. Be a part of someone, sure. Be someone’s other half, yeah I get that. Become one with someone, yes! That’s what God intended, but to belong to someone? That sounds morbidly obsessive and having them watch everything I do, now that’s downright stalker material there. Creepy.

So why, when I read Psalm 139, does this song come to mind? Maybe it is verse 7-10a, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there, if I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there…

“Every step I take, Every move I make…Every vow I break…”

Now I am aware that Sting had no intention of writing this song to be a spiritual allegory (it’s actually, I believe about his jealous ex that he fled to the Caribbean to avoid if I’m not mistaken), but like most things if shifted into a certain perspective, I can hear God speaking through it.

Because God does watch us, not because he is obsessively jealous (although even he admits to being a jealous God when we begin worshiping anything besides him), but because we are created in his image and he loves us. Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder of His involvement in every aspect of our lives. Because, beloved, we do belong to him, and that can be so very terrifying, but also so very comforting when we realize what his motivation is in loving us so fully and completely.

This song is not a perfect parallel by any means, but God speaks to use in wonderful and strange ways…we just have to be willing to listen when he does.