Tag Archives: psalm

When You Stumble

When You Stumble (My journey through Psalm 120-121)

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

What a stupid question, one may respond. Of course, it makes a sound! Just because no one is there to witness it, doesn’t negate the laws of nature–if you go 90 miles an hour on the freeway and there are no cops, you were still breaking the law. You deserve a ticket.

We don’t get what we deserve, thank you, Jesus. Which is why we can call on the Lord and he will answer us. By rights, much of the distress we experience is the result of sin–ours or another’s–which is a result of stepping outside of God’s good and perfect will.  Just because your sin is hidden, it doesn’t make you perfectly deserving of all good things. We get good things because of God’s blessings and forgiveness, but the tree still fell. It still made a noise. It reverberated throughout history.

Thankfully though we can lift our eyes to the hills the only place our help can come from, the Lord (121:1-2, paraphrased). And because of his graciousness, he can turn that fallen tree into something really beautiful.

I had an interesting conversation with my sister last night about the paradox of God’s protection and pre-ordained will. One conclusion that we both drew was that God does not allow evil in the world. We allowed evil in the world when we made our choice to be like God and eat the forbidden fruit–and we have all made this choice at one point or another in our lives. Quit blaming Eve. Despite the fact that God does not pre-ordain this evil, he still manages to use it for his greater good. We talked about a number of different historical examples of God working out the good through the horrific evils of the world, but I have also seen this work out in my own life. As much as I would like to be, I am not perfect and I will beat myself up when I make a mistake. For days, weeks sometimes. Especially if that mistake affects others. But even so, I look back and realize that the mistakes humanized me and as a result, I was able to have an influence in a place I normally wouldn’t have.

That’s what I think these psalms are getting at. 121:3 states that He will not let our foot slip.

Well, that feels untrue sometimes because I know I slip up. But what I get out of this (whether it is what we are supposed to or not, I am unsure, but I hold onto the holy spirit speaking into my soul when I am writing and studying scripture), what I feel in my heart is that God doesn’t keep us from the consequences of our sin–our slip ups–but he can work it to our own good. A promise from Romans 8:28.

Therefore even as our foot slips, God is there, watching, catching, redirecting and loving us even in the hot messes.

If we will let him.

Working through Wounds

Working through Wounds (my journey through Psalms 109)

Most days I love being a teacher. I love spending my time guiding and counseling, rebuking and encouraging because let’s face it. My job is about 10% content and 90% building relationships and mentoring teenagers. Sure, theme, plot, and grammar are important, but they mean nothing if students can’t internalize the skills that will help them succeed on an every-day Tuesday in their future lives.

But then there are those days when I am repaid all my kindness with nastiness. Where my “heart is wounded within me” (Psalm 109:22) because “wicked and deceitful mouths are open against me and encircle me with words of hate and attack me without cause” (Psalm 109:2-3). And it hurts, no it wounds me to my core.

Without giving specifics, because that’s unnecessary, I’ll just say that this psalm resonates with me right now because recently this happened. I spent several days after the incident–seriously disrespectful with no hint of apology or acknowledgment of wrong from the student or the parent– reconciling with myself how to forgive and move on rather than letting the soul wound fester.

And let me tell you, the psalmist’s pleas for justice and godly intervention were fresh in my mind.

But so is another voice. 

A voice that whispers into my conscience that even though this kid intentionally wounded, frustrated and quite frankly ticked me off, it doesn’t negate the good God has done within and through me as a teacher.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see this student as my enemy as David is expressing in this psalm, but I do see the enemy at work against me when I allow these incidents to infect my heart like a festering sore, which is far too easy.

No, instead I will “give great thanks to the Lord.” because he has given me much more than I deserve: a calling, a purpose, and a passion.


Thankful: My Journey Through Psalm (100)

How appropriate that I would land on Psalm 100 for this week of Thanksgiving. The more years I spend on this Earth the more I realize just how blessed I am to be the person I am in the house I own in the city I chose at the church I freely worship in the body God gave me.

That was a lot of prepositional phrases. Sheesh.

All true.

A few years ago I started a gratitude journal. In theory, this journal should be filled 10x by now with all the things I am grateful for, but I have a really bad habit of not recording things about me. I know, stupid, right? A writer who struggles to write about herself? Is that irony? Not sure, but it is true. I have had the hardest time journaling in my life. I’ve tried. Usually, I do well for…3 days. Then I don’t pick up the journal again for, oh…a year? Then I start all over again. I think that’s why I only blog once a week at maximum too. Writing about myself is just…hard. I’ve hidden behind fiction nearly my entire life, so focusing on my reality, well it’s just not as easy for me as it is for other people. Anyway, back to the point. I have this gratitude journal where I have systematically been recording things I am grateful for. Lists help. Boy do I LOVE LISTS. Here are some of my favorites:

6. Nieces’ giggles through the phone line

10. The smell of freshly baked bread

12. Keyboard clicks breaking the silence of a room


182. A good pair of jeans

257. A dead phone

261. Light in the dark places


292. Unexpected sources of income when you need it the most


343. A well-lit room

348. Daffodils outside my house and window

360. The words “Answer to a prayer”

361. Gut feelings that turn out to be God-feelings

375. The swishing sounds of a washing machine at work

381. Reading letters from old friends

400. Answers

And trust me, there are a lot more. This is just a sampling, but as I read back through it I realize just how telling it is about my life over the past few years. And very Psalm-esque. My gratitude journal has become the echoing poem of my life. And I think that is a lot more beautiful than three days here and there telling about what happened to me that day. And it makes me want to “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, and worship with gladness (V.1)” because I have so many things to be grateful for. My life is good. My life is beautiful. My life belongs to the Lord.

So here is my challenge to you. Start a gratitude journal…or if you’re like me and journals are hard, just start a list. Keep going. I was inspired by a book, 1000 Gifts (find it here on Amazon), and it’s a beautiful step forward to “Entering his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (v.4)”. Because Thanksgiving is not the only day we should count our blessings.

Home Again: My journey through Psalm (87-88)

You know the old saying, you can’t go home again? I don’t actually know who came up with that, but it’s a depressing thought. I mean, no offense to Thomas Wolfe, but the idea of not being about to return to your roots is quite disheartening. One of the things I love about humanity is the idea of our past and our present being a large part of who we are and who we become in the future. Though sometimes we may want to, we can’t divorce our past from our present or future self–and really, despite the sometimes horrific circumstances we experience, we shouldn’t want to. Being able to return home is, honestly, what separates humans from the rest of creation.

In Robert Burns’ famous poem, “To a Mouse”, the farmer apologizes to the mouse for destroying her house, but then marvels how despite this, the mouse is lucky because she doesn’t have to worry about the past or the future, but stays in the moment just working at whatever she needs to survive.

That doesn’t sound lucky to me.

To me that sounds like a depressing way to live.

There is a lot to be said for ‘living in the moment’ but planning for the future and learning for the past is, in fact the reality of what makes us function as humans.

And what connects us to God.

You see, Burns didn’t destroy the mouse’s home. He destroyed her house.

Home is not just a building. Home is more than that. Home is a state of being, a feeling, and a surrounding. It is people, not places. Going home again isn’t about reliving the past, it’s about a community–where you are learning and supporting one another from one point in your life to another.


God understand this. In Psalm 87 and 88 the psalmist reflects on how God ‘goes home again’ just like we, as humans, are apt to do. Only God’s home is perfect–and the best part is…it can be our home too.

So, no offense to your genius or blatant criticism of capitalism, Thomas Wolfe, but you are wrong. You can, in fact, go home again, and when you do, you’ll be happier than you’ve ever been.


Up to your Neck: My journey through Psalms (69-70)

When I was a little girl, our family took yearly trips to the beach. My grandmother had this beautiful beach house that could comfortably house my mother and all three of her sisters and their families. Although our family has always had its ups and downs, I still remember this time as being mostly happy. Maybe because I was a kid, I overlooked some of the not so nice things that accompany nearly 20 people being under the same roof for a week, but some of my fondest memories include the sand between my toes and galloping up and down the wooden walkway to the beach in front of the house where Eric, Eric, Justin and I would pretend to be Ninja Turtles, kicking up sand and raising a little hell.

What I didn’t like as much was the actual ocean.

I remember very distinctly the time I thought I was going to drown. I had followed my older cousins out to deeper water and though I could touch the bottom by bobbing down and back up again, I was up to my neck, feeling as though at any moment I could be swept away. Thumping with almost more power than the ocean, my hear beat loudly in my ears as the older kids continued to wade further and further out–further than they were really supposed to go and definitely further than I was allowed.

I wanted to go.

Sure, I was scared, but this was the first time they hadn’t teased me or told me to go back to shore. Honestly, I’m not even sure they realized I was still following them. If my sister had, I’m certain her face would turn as red as a hermit crab and I’d be sent–or forcibly hauled–back to shore.

I wanted to go, but I felt stuck, and the longer I hesitated, the further away they got. Finally, I resigned to my cowardice and turned to shore.

I almost made it, but my back was to the ocean when the wave hit and I was dragged under. Water forced it’s way up my nose, and if you have had an uninvited, forceful nasal cleaning–you know the surging pain (and resulting fear of netipots) that resulted in that moment. I tried to swim to the surface, but I didn’t know which way was up. And I could feel the lack of air in my lungs as I tumbled with the wave, under the wave, controlled by the wave until he finally spit me out on the shore, where I sat–bathing suit full of sand, and never so grateful for Oxygen that forced seawater out of my nose and onto the crushed shells beneath me.

I looked around expecting to see my parents rushing toward me in fear and gratitude at my being alive.

Oddly, no one noticed.

Now that is NOT to say my parents weren’t watching me at the beach! PLEASE don’t get that impression because they were very attentive and strict, but kids will be kids and sometimes kids do dumb things and it happens so fast it’s over before you even realize your kid did something stupid.

That was me that day.

I had decided to break the rules, and I felt the consequences of that decision from my burning nose to the sand deeply embedded in ever crevice of my suit and body.

And it wasn’t pretty.

This story reminds me a lot of Psalm 69. The psalmist cries out to the Lord to save him from waters that are up to his neck because he feels like he will be pulled under without help. As he cries out, he puts his faith and hope and trust in God, but even as he cries out–looking around it seems like no one noticed.

God is attentive. God is strict. BUT sometimes humans are stupid and the result of that stupidity (whether it is our own fault or a consequence of someone else’s stupidity) is often pain, fear and even death.

This does not mean that God doesn’t care.

It doesn’t even mean that God isn’t there.

But humans will be humans, and we have to deal with the result of disobedience that started with the Garden of Eden.

When I walked up the beach, properly chastised for my bad decision, my mom took one look at me and asked what was wrong.

I won’t lie. I didn’t tell her the whole story, but I think she knew. And she didn’t yell or scream. Though she had every right, she didn’t even tell me ‘I told you so.’ Instead, she picked me up and hugged me tight. Then she helped me wash out the sand.

God is the same way.

When we return to him, when we call out, God could turn His back on us, but he doesn’t. He picks us up and washes away the dirt–it’s why he sent us Jesus.

And I’m really glad.

‘Cause drowning, sucks.