Tag Archives: psalms

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. 

Turning Points: My Journey through Psalms (102)

There are pivotal moments in life where you stop and realize that the future could swing in multiple ways. Everyone experiences them, but everyone also reacts to these turning points in different ways–these voltas, or denouements, or whatever you want to call them represent significant “Ah-ha” moments where we, as protagonists in our own lives, get to choose our destiny.

I can think of a number of times when I have stood on the pivot point in my life.

I am twelve years old and a boy told me, in pretty blunt terms, I was too ugly to ‘go out with’ (not that I was dating at 12, but ‘go out’ at that age meant–go to a school dance, or tell everyone you were boyfriend and girlfriend, and hold hands at school. Maybe even talk a little on AOL instant messenger–yes, that’s a thing.).  I remember distinctly standing on that pivot point. Now, I know how important that moment was in shaping me into, well me, but it wasn’t what the boy said, but what I internalized and DID as a result. Because other people do not control our destiny. They affect it. They influence it. But they do not control it.

We do.

Well, we make our own choices, and God takes it from there.

In Psalm 102, the poet laments that “my bones burn like glowing embers.” I think that at these pivotal moments in our lives, we have all felt like our bones are melting from the pressure of that moment and what that moment can mean. It can feel as though your whole world is falling apart. 

For a 12-year-old, rejection can feel like that.

But that is mild compared to other pivotal life experiences. The loss of a loved one. The disappointment of a broken engagement. The new job opportunity that will tear you apart from family or friends. 

In each of these moments, there is a turning point. A divine but, if you will.

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.

The volta of this psalm is the pivot point. The Psalmist spends the first part of his poem lamenting his circumstances, crying out for a reprieve.

In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.

Feelings we can all relate to, I am sure. Imagery that captures the sense of isolation and despair that can completely engulf a person in these times.

But

The Lord is king, he does not abandon us in these moments, He takes control. He guides. He helps us pivot into the change we can’t see in the moment. Change not only in our lives but for our hearts.

I didn’t punch the boy in the face when I was 12 (maybe I did in my mind…). But I moved on. Foward. Away from the rejection, and into my Father’s arms, where I cried my little heart out and then let it change me. And he did. He shifted my feet and pivoted me into my destiny.

Re-Evaluate Your Heart: My Journey through Psalms 101

My absolute biggest pet peeve ever is feeling like I have been lied to.

It pushes my buttons so deep, I need spelunking equipment to retrieve them after my emotions blow a canyon into everything around me.

It’s a character flaw. I know. It means I have less grace than I should because let’s be honest, we all lie. Sometimes.

That moment when you only tell part of the story. You have your reasons but little did you know, the other person already knows the rest of the story. Feels like a lie.

The time you asked a question, but they think you don’t really want the truth because they think you know the truth already.  The other person misrepresents the truth or even fibs. Feels like a lie.

I could go on like this forever. I hate it. And I pride myself on the tenants in Psalm 101. As the message says:

My theme song is God’s love and justice, and I’m singing it right to you, God .

But here’s the problem with pride. Sometimes, the theme song is less about God and more about what you are trying to prove to the world.

I’m finding my way down the road of right living, but how long before you show up? I’m doing the very best I can, and I’m doing it at home, where it counts.

There are a lot of ‘I’s in that verse. I can relate, but sometimes we let the ‘I’s have the reign and we stop letting  God determine what is right. And true. And just.

And by we, I mean I.

Because I have moments when I am too righteous to see people’s hearts. As the psalmist says

 I refuse to take a second look at corrupting people and degrading things.

Which is good, but not when it is guided by own pride and selfish pride. That’s when letting justice be your theme song can take a really nasty left turn and it becomes less about justice and more about proving yourself right. All. The. Time.

There is a lot to be said for letting “No one who practices deceit…dwell in my house”, but there is also a lot to be said for “walking in my house with blameless heart”. You see, they go hand in hand.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t have a blameless heart if I am constantly looking for the blame or deceit in others. Not only is it exhausting, it’s not justice.

So my theme song will stay love and justice, but each day I must re-evaluate my motives. Am I singing love and justice for Jesus or for myself?

The answer to that question, my friends, will make all the difference in how I live my life and how others see Jesus.

Singing Makes you HAPPY. Sing More. (My Journey through Psalms 95-99)

Sometimes, I come home and all I want to do is sing at the top of my lungs in the shower.

Sometimes, I put on my PJs and socks–and do a Risky Business move down the hallway…once, or maybe twice (ya’ll that’s the BEST part about my awesome new floors…you think I’m kidding. Just ask my dog. I’m not).

Sometimes, when I’m in the car, I roll down the windows and JAM out to whatever song is on the radio.

Sometimes, I turn on one of my favorite musicals (*cough, cough* Newsies *cough, cough*) just so I can sing as loud as I can.

I love to sing. Off key, loudly. It ain’t pretty, or cute, but it just makes me feel…GOOD.

Now, I’m a nerd, so let me tell you what I know about singing.

  1. When you sing, endorphins are released. This also happens when you exercise, but let’s face it. I’d much rather sing then run on a treadmill.
  2. When you sing, you have to breathe in a different way than when you speak. More oxygen in your blood=better circulation. Better circulation=better moods. Breathing techniques are important in meditation and exercise as well, so this only makes sense.
  3. When you sing, you forget about things you thought you needed to worry about. It’s hard to worry too much when you are singing Backstreet Boys as you slide down the hallway in a pair of Batman socks (purely hypothetical…I assure you… :-)).

But even more than these three things about singing here, I know that singing can have a deeply spiritual component. This is why it is such a common motif in Psalms. Songs are poetry. And poetry, according to Dr. Curt Thompson in Anatomy of the Soul, is a powerful tool. He states:

It has several distinct features:

  • By activiating our sense of rhythm, poetry accesses our right-mod operations and systems.
  • Reading [or singing] poetry has the effect of catching us off guard. Our imaginations are invigorated when our usual linear expectations of prose …don’t apply. This can stimulate buried emotional states and layers of memory.
  • Finally, poetry not only appeals to right-mode procesisng, but to left-mode as well, given its use of language. This makes it a powerful integratvive tool.

Psalm 95-98 all utilize the idea of ‘singing’ to the Lord, about the Lord, for the Lord, as ways to show gratitude, understanding, acceptance, love. Here are a few examples:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud oto the Rock of our slavation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. (Psalm 95: 1-2)

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. SIng to the Lod, raise his name; roclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his golry among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all the peoples (Psalm 96: 1-2). 

Zion hears and rejoices [sings] and the villages of Judah are glad ecause of your juddgments, O Lord (Psalm 97:8).

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; […] Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing (Psalm 98: 1; 4-5). 

And these are only a few of the Psalms–this motif is seen from beginning to end because singing is a part of being human. But beyond just singing is exalting. When we exalt the Lord, we lift him up and acknowledge that he alone is mighty and just. When we sing, we more easily exalt him. We belt out a tune and shout out our praise and worship him without regard for what others think about us. Singing lets us do what we are created to do.

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy. (Psalm 99:9)

So turn up your radio, put on your socks, and rock out.

Spiritual Struggles : My journey through Psalms (94)

I have, like many people, struggled with anxiety and depression for a good part of my life. It is where the enemy targets me—especially in moments where I am basking in the glory of God’s light. This time of year, November-January, is always the hardest. The days are dark and long. The stress is high. Each day is a battle, a spiritual one.

A few nights ago, around ‘fall back’ time, I had a dream. To the average person, this dream seems mundane at best…stupid at worst, but here it is:

My good friends got together. They did not invite me, I just happened to stumble upon them at a park where they were gathering. They greeted me with smiles and told me the plan. Of course, I was invited, they were glad I was there. But I knew I was an afterthought. 

I walked away. 

A couple of them followed, but wallowing in self-pity, I didn’t return. Instead, I watched the gathering like an omniscient ghost. Every good friend I have ever had, met, or spent time with was there.  Illogically they were together and having a great time without me, even though most of them didn’t know one another. 

Later, I flooded the bathroom–I’m not really sure how that fit into the dreamscape, but I woke up startled and confused, breathing in the anxiety of my dream.

My friends. My Family. The people I do life with. I know they love me. Intellectually I have no problem accepting this. Yesterday I had an amazing time hanging out with some of the people who have been with me since elementary school–clearly not a place of anxiety This dream was stupid, yes, but it also is very telling about my fears. 

But then…

I had dinner with a friend of mine and I said something pretty stupid. My extemporaneous delivery in conversation sometimes is terrible, and my comment was meant as a joke, but based on her reaction I realized it was not life-giving, it damaged hope. I felt bad. I’ve obsessed over it for a few days now, even though I know she immediately either forgot or forgave my insensitivity, I still sometimes struggle with the feeling that one wrong move and all my relationships might just crumble.

 

I fear many things, but rejection is pretty high on the list. Even when I’m with people I love and who I know love me, a part of my mind is always battling against the whisper that I am unwanted–that I don’t fit in and I should stop trying to.

I fear being an afterthought. Forgotten. And worst of all, being isolated in my own head because I allow these fears to become realities.

Because the fact is, sometimes I do allow it.

Psalm 94, of course, spoke to me after a night of restless dreams. Verses 18-19 read:

When I said my foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, Supported me. When Anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy.

The fact is simple. We all have a choice–to lean on God or let the world support us. The world will always let us down. No matter how much our friends and family care–they are only human and they make mistakes. We simply can’t count on them to sustain our life force the way that God alone can.

Don’t get me wrong. Friends and family are important! Jesus had 12 BFFs that he did life with, but even Jesus asserted that we must leave them and trust only in God.

Only then will we find consolation for our weary, fearful souls.

I found this graphic to be simple, but effective. It helps me, so I’m sharing it in case your spiritual battles are equally mind-blowing.

I can’t control every subconscious fear, but I can put God in control, and listen only to his voice. When he is my foothold, then the fears can never control me.