Tag Archives: peace

Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities: My journey through Psalms (103)

I debated on writing this post because my intention is not for people to feel sorry for me or to feel bad. The whole reason I started this blog was to promote my writing, which, as it happens, tends to focus on the vulnerabilities real people struggle with every day. So, as I was reading Psalm 103 I realized a lot of what I have been feeling is exactly what others have felt for thousands of years. Because, after all, we are humans and we struggle with a vast array of emotions that are interconnected throughout our lives and our own histories as well as the world’s history.

Eve ate the fruit, not because she was hungry, but because she was curious and eager to prove herself.

Abraham slept with Hagar because his wife Sarah was impatient and convinced God needed her help.

Bathsheba had an affair with David because he was rich and powerful, but also because he was there when her husband wasn’t.

We all do dumb things when we are curious, eager to prove ourselves, impatient, “helping” God, and alone. And at some point, we have all felt each one of these incredibly human emotions.

I’ve always found the holidays to be particularly challenging in that respect.  A plethora of human emotions washes over me during this time of the year. Joy in celebration, sure, but also…

  • eagerness to prove
  • impatience
  • a need to “help” God
  • loneliness

Every year I want to prove I am giving and happier to give than receive. Have you ever felt this? An inexplicable desire to prove, to no one in particular, that you are the ‘best’ giver? Maybe I’m alone in that, but sometimes when I’m busy trying to prove that I forget what the point of the gift is in the first place. Interesting how our desire to prove ourselves often proves nothing but our own selfishness. Ouch. It’s a good thing God “redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies” (103:4), because I definitely don’t deserve such grace.

My impatience is probably award-winning too. When I want something, I often want it right then. Especially if it has been promised to me, or if I don’t understand the purpose of waiting. And this one doesn’t apply just to the holidays. I am impatient and often live for the next moment rather than the moment I’m in. The mantra “I’ll be satisfied when…” is not one I am particularly proud of.  Fortunately, even in my impatience, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (103:8).

And he doesn’t need my help. Even though I sometimes try to give it to him, he doesn’t need it. Ever. My impatience often leads to my own foolish decisions acting outside of God’s plan, but “He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever” (103:10). Which is good, because I probably deserve his wrath with the number of times I have tried to be in control (as you’re all probably aware given the number of times I’ve written about it).

What I struggle with the most this time of year is an echoing sense of loneliness. That’s stupid, right, since I have an amazing family who loves me and makes sure I know they love me. I have great friends who do the same! I’m not complaining in this post, just being honest. This year, it hit me particularly hard. As a 32-year-old single woman, I’m in a particularly weird life stage. Fitting into a ‘group’ just doesn’t happen, and that is never more evident than this time of year when people are throwing so many parties that couples have to turn down invitations because they’re overbooked. It’s not that people mean to leave out someone like me, but they think ‘oh it’s a couples party they won’t enjoy themselves,’ which is probably true because being the 3rd wheel sucks just as much. Or, in contrast, the single ladies are all a decade younger so the ‘party’ isn’t as enjoyable because our life experiences are just so vastly different. I’m not saying I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself or in a state of depression–that is far from true. These are just observations I made over the past few weeks, particularly when that echo bounces around in my head, especially this year since I lost my beautiful chicken nugget, Emma, who in all her canine glory always made me feel so much less alone in the world.

Again, please don’t read this wrong. I’m not writing this to whine and complain, to make people feel bad or sorry for me! I’m writing this because God knows these feelings, all of them are what make us human and “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (103:14) even when we are wrapped up in our own self-importance, indulgences, and even pity.

Ultimately God is good. He “gives righteousness and justice to all” (103:6) and his “unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the Earth” (103:11).

Because we all need that grace and mercy every once in a while.

After all, that’s why we celebrate Christmas, God’s grace and mercy made flesh. Accessible forever, for everyone. And that’s something worth celebrating. 

Rebuke and Restore: My journey through Psalms (38-39)

For some reason my dog will sometimes growl at my nieces. She’s not being mean or hateful, but a low growl just to let them know she is the boss, and even as she does so her tail just wags and she smiles. My theory is because they are all pretty much the same size, it is the only way Emma knows to express her rights as the ‘dog’ of the house. If you tell her ‘bad dog, no growling’, typically she will stop. Because, no matter what she believes, she is NOT the boss.

Unfortunately, my nieces have let this power go their head a tiny bit. A few days ago, Emma was under the table and listening well. Then one little girl walks in and says ‘bad dog’, waggling her finger at the patient dog who had done nothing wrong.

“Why did you do that?” I asked the blonde ringletted little one. “She wasn’t doing anything wrong. Do you like being yelled at when you are doing the right thing?”

Chastised, the girl responded, “No, but she was growling earlier.”

Ah. A recorder of previous sins.

“Okay,” I said, pulling the child into my lap. “But that was then and this is now. If you tell her she is doing bad when she is not, don’t you think that might get confusing?”

A shrug.

“What if you were being sassy earlier and then later came in the kitchen and asked if you could please have a piece of fruit. Then I told you no because i don’t like your sassy attitude.”

“But if I said please, that’s not sassy.”

Exactly.

“Not sassy then, but you were sassy earlier.”

“But I was doing the right thing.”

“So was Emma.”

The little girl scrunched her nose up, thinking, processing and then nodded.

No one likes getting their noses rubbed in their wrong doings, but when you do slip up–because everyone slips up–there are consequences for those mistakes. My niece got a lecture. Emma got a time out. Sometimes we have to pay fines, or worse, go to prison, or apologize to people we really don’t want to apologize to. No matter who we are, we sin. We mess up. And God’s ‘punishment’ is the conviction and consequences for these actions.

Yet our hope still remains in our God and when we do mess up, he’s the rebuker, but also the restorer. And so we ask “But now, Lord, what do I do?” And if we are wise, we’ll listen before we act.

My niece and Emma may have had a bad day, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be restored, and as Emma nuzzled me later that night, I know what restoration to a rebuker looks like.

Correction is painful, but restoration brings peace, love, and joy.

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Step into the Light: My Journey through Psalms (Psalm 4)

Psalm 4

This is a plea and it makes me think of echos– calling out and hearing your own voice echoing back against the cavernous walls that surround you, or worse, hearing the mocking voice of an enemy and how that pit in your stomach grows as the sense of abandonment and loss grows with it.

Where are you God?

And instead of that peace, knowing God is there…the enemy creeps in and answers. You fool. He mocks. God isn’t there. Why would he be there for you when you rarely make time for him? He’s left you. Abandoned you. He doesn’t have time for you and your insignificant life. Those words echo in your mind as the the enemy builds the foundation of his stronghold on your heart–a lie forged in that shadow of doubt that God has left you and isn’t there when you need him. That echo in the dark cave.
You are alone.
You have to do this alone.
It is up to you alone.
Alone, alone, alone.
That echo, that deception is wrong. It is a lie and it can be destroyed. Verse 3 rips it down with–KNOW THAT THE LORD SET APART THE GODLY FOR HIMSELF AND WILL HEAR WHEN I CALL TO HIM.
God hears. Always. And if he hears, he is there. Always. He never promised a life of peace or free from trials or that we will even be given a ‘fair lot’. But he does promise his comfort, his joy and his peace.
The psalmist is wise. He knows what this abandonment can lead to, which I believe is why verse 4 urges action against sinning in anger. When the world seems to have turned on us, we often rebel against the world, but Jesus told us to love the world. To love those who hate us, just as he did. He died for those who killed him. It’s easy to love our friends and family–but to love the haters?
Taylor Swift was right, haters are always gonna hate, but we have a choice. We can be more like Jesus and live with an attitude of forgiveness and love. Or we can be a hater too. Which would tear down the strongholds in our lives more readily? Which would set us free?
We are children of the light, the deceptions are darkness, so whenever they come we must ask God to let his light shine in us and on us to get rid of those dark and hard places. It’s the only way out of the cave of echoes and into the land of the living where we will have peace and joy.

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So while Psalm 4 begins with this echo, it is really a psalm of great direction for how to receive great joy. How to get rid of that stronghold of doubt, fear and rejection and step into the light.

To dwell in safety
Because the Lord is there, and he loves you.
Always, always, always.


Questions to Ponder:
1) What strongholds do I need to pray for deliverance from?
2) Am I letting the dark cancel out God’s light?
3) How can I show others the way to freedom?

Maybe It’s Just Me…

Maybe It’s Just Me

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inside restaurant Pan e Vino

Tick…Tick…Tick…Tock…My life clock continues louder with every little tick and each resounding tock it chimes and chirps wand each day rotates just a little bit fast.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” responds the girl in the salon. When did I become a “ma’am”?

I wonder…

Maybe it’s just me but…

I thought my life would be different. At sixteen I had a plan. I knew how my life would be at 28.

Maybe it’s just me but…

Everything seems so mundane, blasé, not at all what I had in mind.

Maybe it’s just me yet…

I know I am blessed beyond measure with beautiful people, meaningful work, and wonderful space.

Maybe it’s just me yet…

I am grateful, I should be grateful, I have forgotten how to be grateful. I am lost in a world of self-deprecation disguised as a sort of humility. I want to be proud. I want to own my pride. I don’t know where to begin.

Maybe it’s just me and then again, maybe it’s not.

 

These are just words, thoughts strung together as I reflect one Friday evening. I’m not even sure what form you’d call this. Maybe it’s verse, but I think it’s a kind of stream of consciousness. Really, it’s just me. Wondering. I’m not unhappy with my life. In fact most days I’m very content. But sometimes, especially recently I begin to wonder if maybe, just maybe I’m letting life pass me. And after I get done with all this wondering, I start to pray. My conversation with God is not exactly thrilling, it more just wondering about two little words: too late.

Are those not the most devastating combination of words? Too late—lost hope, dreams and future. They taste bitter on the tongue, as sour as the poison their power holds because once someone believes it is too late…

What is left to them?

That’s when God reminds me of Lazarus. (I started to say “I’m reminded of” then I realized it is no coincidence that this story launches into my brain).

The story is in John 11 and the NIV reads this way:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick […] so the sisters sent word to Jesus. “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” […] he stayed where he was two more days.”

HE STAYED! He heard the news that his loved one is sick. Jesus knew what this meant, to the family. He knew what pain it would cause them. Agony, anguish, mental torment—not to mention what the physical illness did to Lazarus himself. It must have been painful to have ended in even a temporary death. And still, he didn’t go. He waited two days. Two of the longest days of his friends’ life (I’m sure they were no picnic for Jesus either).

Then the story continues with Jesus telling his disciples they are returning to Judea. His friends are worried because of the trouble brewing there, which makes me wonder if Mary, Martha and Lazarus didn’t question Jesus’ loyalty and love. I know I would have. Hardly able to understand why he didn’t come help their brother, they search for an explanation—even an irrational one. I imagine they might have thought that he cared for his own safety more than the well-being of their brother. Can you imagine the sick feeling of disappointed hopes and dreams? Maybe it’s just me…

Jesus tells his disciples they are going to see Lazarus who is dead and I love Thomas’ reply, but it is so sad. “Let us go that we may die with him.” Caustic, bitter, untrusting. Thomas doesn’t see the point in visiting the dead man. It’s too late. There are those words. It’s too late for him! Why put ourselves at risk?

When he finally arrives at Mary and Martha’s home, they greet him with the same response; although they greet him separately they are of the same mind. “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died. “

You’re too late, God.

Ah, ye of little faith.

Too late, oh so devastating to us mortals—as Alexander Pope said “born but to die.” Of course we will lose our hope and our faith with those words.

Restoration comes from one place alone.

And it’s never too late for God.

We may not like his timing. We may not understand his timing. But He’s never too late.

“Lazarus ,come forth!”

How I want to be raised from the deadness of disappointed hope and resurrected into the life of gratitude each and every day.  But, maybe it’s just me…