Tag Archives: psalms

Adjusting our Attitudes: My Journey through Psalms (108)

My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn!  Psalm 108:1-2

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Growing up, my church put on a yearly children’s musical. I’m sad that this is kind of rare in churches now, but I understand. There is so much demand out there for a family, their time, their energy. Not to mention volunteers. Finding people who are willing to volunteer their time on Sundays is hard enough; soliciting someone to spend several weeks teaching kids to sing and perform is a challenge of astronomical proportions. At any rate, it is one of the things I enjoyed…most of the time.

I was not particularly talented, but boy did I want to be! I practiced all the time. I auditioned for the lead role every year. I wanted to prove something to that church, and maybe to myself, about my talent.

Honestly, all I really proved (most of the time) is my lack of star quality. I was a good supporting role, but I was not meant to be in the spotlight.

Except for one time.

One year, the lead was not a female role. I can’t remember the storyline, but usually, it had something to do with Christmas, so I feel like it was a shepherd or something. Anyway, miracle of miracles, I got the lead role. I was to be the singing shepherd. Center stage. In the spotlight, finally.

And I put my heart and soul into that role. I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself, but that’s not what I remember about this moment. This role.

What I remember the most is the kind of dedication it took to be the starring role. I remember how I hated to miss a rehearsal, I remember how some of the other girls and I interacted in not so pleasant ways,  I remember how I felt when it was over, but mostly I remember the way it made me feel incredibly special. Important.

And that is how we are supposed to treat God every single day.

He should have the starring role. He should be incredibly special. Our dedication and devotion to Him should be so complete that we loathe to miss out on time with Him.

Most of the time, though I find that I treat God like a supporting role. Someone who is there for me when I need him, but not the star. Not the one at center stage at all times.

God is not the supporting role. He’s not our backup singer. His

star quality should dazzle us every day.

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It is so easy to wake up and ask God to support our dreams, but what we should do is wake up, thank him, praise him and ask him how we can support his purpose.

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Often, I find, when I adjust my attitude in this way, my dreams realign to his purpose for my life. And when I become the supporting role, it’s kind of an amazing production.

He has given us so much.

It’s time to make Him the star.

 

Wilderness reminders: My Journey through Psalms 105-107

When the Israelites wandered through the desert, they became well known for one thing: grumbling. They had no food. Grumble. They had no water. Grumble. They didn’t like the food. Grumble. They were tired. Grumble. Grumble. Grumble. Despite the fact that God constantly reminded them of his provision (by miraculously providing for them multiple times–daily really), their default was clear: grumble. grumble. grumble.

Earlier in my faith, when I would read these passages I would judge them pretty harshly. How could they continue to whine and complain when bread was literally falling out of the sky and they were following a pillar of fire? God’s glory really doesn’t get any clearer than that. It’s in front of your face!

The older, and dare I say, wiser I become I realize more and more how arrogant that is. Because I do the same thing every day. Instead of remembering His grace and goodness, I tend to focus on what he hasn’t done for me, rather than what He provides for me.

As Psalm 106 states before going into the history reminders: “Honor His holy name with Hallelujahs, you who seek God. Live a happy life!” That last comment in verse 3 is really a command: honor him, seek him, and live happy. Remember his promises and focus on the blessings, what he has done for you. That is the secret of a happy life.

Why? “Because he’s good, because his love lasts,” Psalm 107:1 answers. And reassures in verse 3 that “You’re one happy man when you do what’s right, one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.”

I may not walk through a literal wilderness, but these wildernesses still exist in my life–in everyone’s life. Because let’s be real, life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Life is hard. Life is unfair, or at least it feels that way. And life can be lonely. Really lonely when you are isolated in the wilderness and it looks like everyone else around you is enjoying favor in the land of milk and honey.

I know I’ve written about this on the blog before, but it’s life and it’s where I am right now. I am in a wilderness of singleness. And it’s hard. And heartbreaking. And lonely.

Sometimes.

Usually, it’s all those things when I focus on what I lack. What I want. What God HASN’T given me. Like the Israelites grumbling about not having the promised land, or food right when they want it, I grumble about what I think my life should be instead of turning inward to focus on what life IS right now. What he has blessed me with. And why.

But “Oh thank God–He’s so good! His love never runs out. All of ou set free by God, tell the world! Tell how he freed you from opression…” Psalm 107 is quick to remind us just how much God HAS done for us. And, quite frankly, how beautiful his provision is.

And as I work toward transformation I see it. I see the blessings day in and day out. I focus more on them and less on my selfish desire to want what I want when I want it!

Because “if you are really wise, you’ll think this over–it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love” (Psalm 107:43). In the wilderness or in the land of milk and honey…

God. Never. Changes.

Transformation: My Journey through Psalms 104

I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions in a long time, because frankly by Easter everything is pretty much challenged by life and shouldn’t we be constantly on the lookout for reformation? So I choose resolutions when I need reformation, not just on one arbitrary day of the year.

What I do enjoy doing each year is picking a word to focus my year around. This year, after a lot of prayers, I choose transformation. And wow. Let me advise you if you do this and you seriously make it a regular prayer to be ready for whatever word you are praying for to really penetrate your life.

I’m not the easiest going person in the world. I like a set schedule. I like routine. I hate surprises. Can I adapt? Sure, or I wouldn’t be a successful teacher, but it really stresses me out when I have to create and change on the fly.

I’m also not the bubbliest person in the world. Happy is not my default. In fact, I have been compared to that Sadness character in Inside Out by more than one person. That, I think is a little extreme, but I get it. I’m a pragmatic realist so I really don’t bounce around looking for things to jump for joy about.

2017 was a really rough year for me–and ended in a really rough way. So when 2018 rolled around I wanted real change. I wanted transformation. 

Did you know that transformation is radical? And usually requires some kind of alteration or catalyst. Something new must be added in order to alter the composition or original structure. In case you are wondering, chemically speaking, a break down has to happen–at the cellular level–for transformation to occur.

Yikes.

See where I am going with this?

I’m actually kind of impressed with what God is doing with this in my life. I think he led me to this word because I could have chosen one of two things to do with the year 2017. 

I could have wallowed in the sadness, or I could do what Sadness is supposed to do–allow it to move through you so you can actually understand, appreciate and experience real joy. And that is true transformation.

So what does that have to do with Psalm 104?

If You, God, can be dressed up in sunshine… have built your palace on the ocean deeps and made a chariot out of clouds…commandeered winds as messengers and appointed fire and flame as ambassadors…roared and the water ran away…set boundaries between earth and sea…make grass grow…bring grain from the land and wine to make people happy

Then how could we ever doubt his ability to transform us each and every day?

 

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.