Tag Archives: culture

Out of the Pit: My Journey Through Psalms (5 and 7)

Psalm 5 and 7

Mostly Psalm 5 is on of pronouns. Once again the Davidic speaker is crying out to God for help, begging the Lord to hear him, but what I really hear are the personal pronouns “my, I, me” in the first few lines, and repeated again later on in the psalm, each time as part of a plea. These are juxtaposed in a stark contrast against the “yous” of the next few verses, and the “theys” of the following verses, each outlining the roles of not a single individual but representatives of groups. Symbolic figures. Even the you isn’t just the single entity of the Lord, but rather the trinity–a group.
The volta in verse 11 is sharp, because it brings all the pronouns togehter, naming them and describing how and why “my, I, me” is protected and cared for.

I cry out to you against them.
You are good.
They are guilty.
I am righteous.
THEREFORE,
You protect and bless me.

Simple logic showing the two sides of God, the vengeful and the protector. Not a contradiction, but a complementory personality necessary to bring justice to an unjust world. Proof of why we all need a savior.
And a theme that is continued in Psalm 7–especially in verse 14-17 where the psalmist uses distinct images to separate the wicked from the righteous.
Pregnancy usually has strong positive connotations, yet here it is used with negative intent ‘one who is pregnant with evil gives birth to corruption’, which again is simple cause and effect imagery. Followed by the image of digging a pit in which you yourself will then just fall, so true as Sir Walter Scott once eloquently put it in Marmion ‘oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’. You cannot nurture negative habits and expect positive results. The opposite, in fact, is sure to result. One little white lie is not as innocent as you expect it to be, but rather leads to another lie and yet another, and another, perpetuating the lie until it unfortunately can land you into a pit. Sometimes the pit is sinister, and sometimes it is just a sticky situation, but a pit it is nonetheless so unless we are nurturing good habits, we cannot expect to give birth to healthy offspring. There is a reason the warning label says ‘do not use if you are pregnant or nursing’ because you must be extra diligent when you are growing a baby human–we too are growing our spiritual selves and we must be intentional about it. If we are not, the outcome is not going to be spiritually healthy.
God gives us these guidelines for a reason and I thank him for it. Personally, I don’t want the trouble and violence to come crashing down on my head in the pit I dug for myself, but that is exactly what happens when we fall into our own tangled web and dug pits of deception, bad habits, or strongholds.
So I thank God today because he is good and he offers instruction, protection and blessing for all those who seek it. Because he knows I sure need it.
Without his hand, I sure wouldn’t be able to get out of those pits I’ve dug for myself.

l-358144


Questions to Ponder:
1) Are there any pits I need help getting out of today? Who can help me aside from God?
2)How does God help make straighter paths for me?
3)How can I better nurture good habits and starve the evil ones?

Questioning A Calling: My Journey Through Psalms Day 2

Psalm 2

Psalm 2 begins with a question, perhaps a rhetorical one, why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? It’s a set up of a conflict that continues into Psalm 3, where the psalmist is worried or at least commenting on the rebellion of the people against his anointed leadership.

When people are against you and conflict abounds, immediately you begin to question your calling. Despite the anointing, despite hearing God clearly, the odds do not feel in your favor and it is easy to feel despair. I notice a lack of reaction from the speaker throughout, though he does comment a lot on what the Lord does for him. Perhaps that’s for the best.

I know the psalm is referring to the power and authority given to Davidic kings, but I can’t help feel a connection since I am also called a daughter (and the speaker is called a son in verse 7). As a daughter I am given great power and authority through God’s anointing just as the Davidic king is.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

And still I often have doubts, especially when I run into conflict. I wonder, did I hear God right?

But anything worth doing is going to require effort and action. If it will have a lasting kingdom impact there will most certainly be conflict because the enemy will always step in. Always present, the father of lies tries to cast shadows in my sunshine. Still, with all my conflict and doubts, God whispers…just ask (verse 9).

He always answers.

Questions to ponder:

1) Davidic kings were given power and authority through an inheritance. How does my inheritance come through Jesus?

2) WHen I ask God for guidance, how does he show me that I have been given power, strength and authority?

3) How can I discern and dispel the enemy’s lies?

 

God is a Romantic

I’ve always been a realist. I like things to be tangible, logical, accountable. If I can see, taste and touch it then I can account for how and why something happened, make good decisions, and accurately assess the consequences—both good and bad. This is how I live my life. Boring? Perhaps. Predictable? I suppose. To me, it’s safe, understandable, stable…

It’s not that bad things don’t happen to me, that is not what I mean, but that I usually understand why both good and bad happen because I can analyze the reality of the situation…usually.

Unfortunately I was convicted this week by my safe, stable environment. The fact that my world is so secure, is not necessarily good. Because God is not a realist.

God is a Romantic, probably the ultimate Romantic. And the stories he writes for each of us is more beautiful and full of inexplicable, delightful acts of love full of as much passion as we will allow. And that’s just the thing. My nature is limiting to God. Not that I control him, but I continually try to control what he is and what he does in my life to keep everything in order. Safe. Secure. Real.

How depressing.

Instead of experiencing the awesome power and passion that God has in store for me, I try to tell God when and where I need it, like I know better than he does.

But I don’t.

Intellectually, I recognize this, but intellectually is really the problem so I am working on a heart transplant. Becoming more open, freeing myself from this mind trap of realism and shifting my attitude toward the possibilities. As I told my students when we studied American Romanticism: Romantics see what could be, realists see what is.

Expecting more from God invites him to work his incredible and awesome power into our lives, and that passion shakes things up and shows us what it means to truly be alive. After all, we should live, not just be.

So this is my prayer: Lord, free me from my own limitations. I want to see your power and presence at work in my life even if it rocks my world…especially if it rocks my world. Amen.

mountain

 

SLOVAKIA Bound!

Reach. Our. World.

This summer I have an EXCITING OPPORTUNITY to be a part of GRACE LIFE CHURCH‘s Short Term Team to the SLOVAK REPUBLIC

Image credit to S. Augello 

This past year has been a growing experience for me in a lot of ways. I have started a new job, moved into a new house, made new friends, but even more importantly I have found a church home where I have had the opportunity to grow in my relationship with Christ. One of the most important lessons I have learned this year is that faith is more than just a personal relationship, and more than just something to believe. It is a CONSTANT surrender to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to act for the advancement of God’s kingdom.

The needs are great in Slovakia. Although communism is no longer the political stronghold, the country is still in great need to build up churches. This is especially important among the youth. As you all know, I have a heart and a gifting for working with and teaching youth, and firmly believe that this is the way to improve the world we live in today and reach even more people in the future. Youth, after all, are not just the future. They are they present and building that foundation now is important.

Our team has the opportunity to work with the local ministry of Josiah Venture to help build youth ministries and develop youth leaders to reach their country. This summer I will be working with students from Slovakia as they are invited to an English camp run by Josiah Venture where within a camp environments students are taught conversational English and exposed to Biblical truths for the first time.

After camp, students return to their hometown and are invited to youth group events at the local churches where relationships are built and maintained.  As a writer, teacher, and lover of languages and youth I can feel God is going to do something amazing this summer and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Please pray for our adventure and time this summer as we prepare for this calling. If you are interested in becoming a part of my support team, you can print out the response card below OR you can go to the following link and donate financially online. https://gracelifechurch.ccbchurch.com/w_give_online.php

(Choose Ashley Carmichael in the drop down designation)

Prajem Božie požehnanie! (May God bless you!)

 

 

 

Slovakia Response Card

Fear the Shadows

Peter Pan has always fascinated me. The idea of a losing one’s shadow would inherently mean shadows had a mind of their own. Now, if shadows have a mind of their own are they good? Bad? Amoral? Human? And if they’re just human, maybe they’re looking for similar things. In a delicate piece of flash fiction—really more a journal entry here—I explore this idea allowing the concept to develop, but I wonder if there is a thematic element that could be developed further. Could shadows be something to fear?

http---www.pixteller.com-pdata-t-l-276184

“She’s at it again,” the first voice broke through the silence of the room, coming from the darkened place beneath the divan. An alto, high pitched, but soft to the other shadows, but to the human a mere movement of air. The chimes outside on the porch ringing with the touch of the wind, of course.

“At what?” a second voice responds. This one is darker. A bass, booming originating from the center of the room beneath the old oak table that has been in the family for many generations. But to Sally, who remains inert on the couch watching into the third season of the latest popular show on Netflix, it’s just a settling in her house. The heating turning on, perhaps?

Unnoticed, the voices continue.

“Binging. Another day of mindless, stupid. She just stays there, attached to the furniture time passing over her!” the first complains.

“Stop judging,” a shadow voice breathes from across the room, barely a whisper from the dark corner, “Do you always have to be so dark?”

“It’s not fair. She can do so much. While I—“

“The Meeting’s tonight; air your grievance there.” The deep voice is commanding and so the first is quieted. The Meeting will be enough. It will have to be enough. No one will continue the conversation for now.

Later that evening, Sally has fallen asleep on the couch and darkness has settled over the rooms as the sun melts into the evening sky and the moon settles behind a darkened cloud. There are no stars to illuminate the rooms as the shadows gather, darkening the house.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the booming voice begins. “The time has come for our freedom. The time has come for our rebellion against our oppressors. The time has come for us to start living the lives our counterparts refuse to live. Look at them.”

The pregnant pause seems to hover over the couch before the voice picks up again.

“The world is before them, yet they choose to remain still and unmoving. They abuse their living rights, mocking their images as they stare for hours at an unmoving box. When they do go out, before they do, they must change their own image to match a constantly altering cultural construct.

“But we are above that. We are beyond image. Shadows know what true equality is and it is time we claim our rightful place in the world.”

The voice ceased speaking, and the murmuring began. Slowly at first and then gathering momentum, until finally a voice speaks with charitable coolness.

“And what, pray tell, shall become of the solid world when we break free to inhabit our right place? What, do you suggest, will become of the foolish humans who place too much power in the hands of these superficial images?”

The murmurings grew stronger with suggestions.

“Those who do not adapt to our shadow world—“ the booming voice finally interrupted, quieting the world once more. “Those who do not fit into our world of equality, our ideal. The humans, they had their chance, so they will—they will—“ this voice grew stronger and louder, tension growing with each new word spoken. “The will—“

The light flipped on and the shadows were forced to scatter as Sally padded into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. The dark places in her home burned, but she stepped in the light, where she was safe. Saved from the shadows, which followed her from the kitchen to the bedroom, always right behind her—closer and closer, until the door closed behind her with an eerie squeak as the light flipped off—for good.


 

Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.