“He loves you – no matter what” -Psalm 136 – Praise Psalm

This was an assignment for my Spirituality in the Psalms Class – I am amazed at what the Psalms brings out in people. Here’s what I got from it… Thank you Dr. Kon Yang for challenging me and teaching me to see my story in the age-old stories of the Psalms.

PRAISE PSALM BASED ON PSALM 136

    Psalm 136 is the song of a nation. It is the story of Israel. It tells their story. It is their national anthem. The resounding theme that repeats over and over again is “His love endures forever”. This theme serves to remind the Hebrew people and reaches out to us today of God’s changeless love for them and for us – that no matter what, “His love endures forever.” It focuses the people on God’s unchanging character, his faithfulness and his commitment to the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It points to the relationship He has long held fast as the God of their fathers. It points out His omnipotence and His greatness. Because of His unchanging nature, we are repeatedly assured that “His love endures forever.”

     Psalm 136 is a retelling of tragedy and of loss, of prosperity and peace. It calls to memory the great miracles of the past and points to God’s hand as the source of all provision. This is where we’ve come from. This is where we’re going. It is a roadmap of faith for the people of God. Psalm 136 paints a picture of God’s faithfulness and his history with His chosen ones. When we read Psalm 136, God tells us our own story. He repeats to us His changeless character. He puts forth his work history as we look forward to the job He does for us daily. As I approach my own version of Psalm 136, I look back over generations of blessing in my life. I look back at times He has pulled me through – sometimes kicking and screaming. I look back at forty-two years, plus generations of His faithfulness to bring blessing into my life – a godly heritage. My interpretation is in blue.

PSALM 136

Thanks for the LORD’S Goodness to Israel.

Gratitude for a long history of unmerited favor to the people He chose because they were the weakest among the mighty powers of this earth – the most able to show His greatness and strength – because it was not of their own, but a gift of God.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.

 

Be grateful and humbled by God’s great goodness.

All the time God is good. God is good all the time.

He loves you

no matter what.

 
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.

 

We are so grateful that our God is BIG.

He has deposed false gods –

those who lie to you and then don’t deliver.

He delivers.

He is faithful and true. He exists. He is real.

Our God is mightier than any other.

He is alive.

And His love is alive for you

– no matter what.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

 

We are grateful to our God. He is the Big Boss of all masters.

We have been slaves. We have been degraded to a status of less than human.

We have been the object of exile, bondage and holocaust,

But our God, He is the Lord of all lords.

He holds more power and more strength

than any who would subdue, enslave or torture our people.

He is BIG and powerful and He is on our side

– no matter what we may experience on this earth.

 

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.

We give him credit for the miracles He has done on our behalf.

He made ten plagues – things impossible by natural laws – so we could be free.

He rained down bread from heaven – so we could be fed every single day – in a desert.

He brought water from a rock.

He parted waters and we crossed on dry land.

Nothing is impossible for our God

and He will do anything it takes to show His love to you

– no matter what.

 

who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.

Our God created all things – even before time,

He made the space from which all things came.

Before anything was, He has always been.

and even then, there, in a vast expanse of nothing

He was already loving you.

And He still does

-no matter what

 

 

who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.

 

Our God is so big that all He had to do was speak

And the continents came into being.

He just says the word and BOOM! the earth is formed.

He’s that awesome

and He has loves you – “bigger than dirt”

– no matter what

7 who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.

One word. BOOM!

The universe was there!

He holds it all in His hands and He!

Almighty God, maker of the universe,

He made you

and He loves YOU

– no matter what.

 

the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.

The sun is only a medium-sized star compared to the others in the galaxy.

It’s the biggest thing in our neighborhood, cosmically speaking.

It is 864,938 miles across, it’s 2,713,406 miles miles around.

1.3 million earths could fit inside it.

It makes up 99.8% of them mass of the entire solar system.[1]

And our God spoke it and out of nothing, it was there.

He put us the perfect distance from it that our planet isn’t

a vast frozen wasteland or a scorching inferno.

It lights our way, warms our land, grows our crops

and provides heat and energy just enough at just the right times

to sustain our life and well-being on this planet.

The very same God who made that!

just by speaking the word-

That very same God

with all His ability

loves you

-no matter what.

 

the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

 

Our God created the moon and the stars.

It makes the tides ebb and flow.

Like a giant white rock mirror,

it reflects the sun’s bright light

to give us light in darkness.

The moon makes us to understand cycles.

It helps us to measure our lives into little bits we can understand.

It gives us time in a way we can count.

It makes it possible for us to comprehend how long life lasts…

and how short it really is.

Ways we can measure. Ways to predict. Ways to reflect.

The moon makes it possible

for millions of species to live in our oceans and seas.[2]

The moon gives us cycles to help us understand our own bodies

and our for our minds to grow and to rest.

Our God set into motion an intricate pattern of tides –

push and pull,

seasons of life  – patterns we can rely on…

giving and taking, resting and running,

a time for all things.

He made an entire universe of worlds

and solar systems and galaxies …

And this God, first-speaker of all creation

loves you – always

-no matter what season we move through in our lives

through seasons of loss and of prosperity

through our entire range of humanity,

He loves you

– no matter what.

 

 

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.

When our people were bound by evil

By those who used us, beat us, abused us,

trafficked and sold our children,

debased us, took our dignity,

considered us as less than human,

He prepared a leader – the best possible man for the job,

even when he didn’t think so himself.

He gave them opportunity after opportunity

to do what is right and

“Let my people go”.

And when it seemed all was lost

And there would be no deliverance.

Our God sent a supernatural tragedy

upon the people who despised us.

He loved us and heard our cry.

He loves you and hears the cries of all who cry out

no matter how heinous the crime against them.

He loves you. He hears your cries.

-no matter what.

 

 

11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.

He passed us over as He marked for death

those who tortured us

He saved our children

from life of oppression and slavery.

He let us go

and delivered us from

the hand of the wicked

because He loves us.

This is how His love works.

He can bring you from your darkest places

because He loves you

and wants a good, peaceful, happy, prosperous future for you

a future and a hope

– no matter what.

 

12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

 

He is the strongest strongman.

He reaches out to us.

He is stronger than the bad guys.

His might and power are above all.

And He holds us gently in his hand

like a tiny sparrow with a wounded wing.

like a mother holds a newborn child.

because in all our frailty

He loves us with a perfect love.

And with this same protecting,

He loves you

– no matter what.

 

13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever.

When we were astounded in unbelief

that He had actually brought us out

of Egypt.

And then we hit a roadblock.

When our faith shrinks back

because one more thing goes wrong.

When we realize our fears

and our hearts shrink…

when He takes the people of out slavery

and we are still unbelieving,

He takes the slavery out of the people by

Parting a giant body of water

for us to pass through on dry ground…

 

14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.

And as we look up beside us

at the fish and water creatures peering through

looking at us through a giant wall of water.

As we run through on sand as dry as the desert,

we wonder in awe at the

God who still does miracles –

delivering us daily from our unbelief

This same God who teaches us

that we are truly free to revel in His unconditional promise

to always hold us close to His heart.

That same God

loves

you…

-no matter what.

 

15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

 

Not only does he deliver us

He foils the pursuit

of those who come to kill us

and leave us for dead.

He’s got our back.

And He’s got yours.

And He actively seeks to love you

and to take the rear guard in your life.

He’s got your back

-no matter what.

 

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

 

When our faith is small.

When we underestimate what He can do.

Even though we’ve seen

Him work miracles beyond description.

Even when we choose to wander aimlessly

for 40 years in the desert

When He’s led us this far

and we aren’t brave enough to face the next challenge.

He loves us – even when we’re cowardly lions.

Even when you are actually the fiercest of all His creation

and you believe we have no courage.

He loves you and He will be your strength.

 – no matter how long it takes to figure out how that will play out.

 

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.

Even when we are few in number

faced by those with more power and experience.

He will stand with us and

take down all who wish to harm us….

 

18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.

You are his beloved heirs,

princes and princesses,

whom He will defend.

Like a white night on a mighty steed.

He races to our rescue against foreign invaders.

This same great king

loves you as His own and stands ready to defend you

– no matter what.

 

 

19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.

When we think we’ve arrived;

when we think we’ve finally gotten to the place

we were seeking all along… and think

“We can finally stop trying so hard all the time.”

We face another challenge.

When we get too comfortable with packing up our tents

and wandering from place to place –

when we get into a routine, a rut, a plateau…

Then He reminds us that no challenge is too much for Him to handle

Even when we feel like giving up…

Like throwing our hands up in the air

and just not moving one more step

Like and old donkey stuck right in the way –

in the middle of the road.

He reminds us that we must continue on

We must reach for what He has promised.

‘Cause when He says it’s greater than we can imagine…

 

20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.

His promise is greater still.

He leads us on to victories we could

NEVER

have imagined –

not even in our wildest dreams.

He has promises for you

and He loves you

– no matter what.

 

21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.

He makes sure we are taken care of.

He makes sure our children’s future is secure and

promises to deliver that they have better lives than we did.

And we don’t have to worry,

but only take one step at a time

in tandem with Him.

He walks with you

and He loves you

 – no matter what.

 

2an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

 

He gave a son’s portion to His servant.

He treats us not like slaves,

not even like hired servants,

but all like his own children.

We are more than simply human beings,

we are his Beloved.

He loves us with the love of a perfect father.

And He loves you and will give you the same

– no matter what.

 

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.

He won’t forget us.

No matter how badly we behave,

no matter how we forget Him.

No matter our unbelief, our doubting or our fear.

No matter our short memory.

No matter our ingratitude.

And He will remember you

and love you “today in Paradise”

– no matter what.

 

24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.

He gives us sweet freedom –

freedom to live as as we please

freedom not to choose Him

He doesn’t force us into relationship with Him,

We don’t “have to” love Him,

we “get to”.

He gives us freedom to understand that

His ways are higher than our own

and to not have to understand everything all the time,

but the peace and serenity and wisdom

to just trust that He deserves our

unsolicited, uninhibited and freely flowing

gratitude.

And He frees us

still

And He will free you

from yourself

– no matter what.

 

25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

 

He’s the Creator of all things.

He cares for all His creation.

He provides for our needs.

He gives to us a lush banquet

to nourish us and make us full,

full to overflowing.

He sustains the earth with sun and rain and crops

and He is the giver of every good thing.

And He loves you.

He will sustain

you

– no matter what.

 

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

 

He is God of heaven and

He is over all.

He is above the highest things

and below the lowest, holding it up.

He is God of you.

And even though He knows every single thing there is about you –

all that is lovely and unlovely.

He loves you –

with all His heart.

He has loved you since before He made you

and His love

for you

endures

forever…

NO

MATTER

WHAT.

 

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“Create In Me A Clean Heart” – Psalm 51 – Lament/Penitential Psalm

Psalm 51 has quite the backstory. The farther back one goes in reading the story, the more layers there are. The sequel is no less complex – Solomon, Amnon, Absalom, Tamar and all their heartwrenching drama.

As a young teen/tween, David was taken from his large well-situated family of peaceful shepherds and brought into the King Saul’s Palace to serve as the court entertainment – not unlike child stars today in Hollywood, New York or Las Vegas. He was given great privilege and status as a member of the court. He had a deeply intimate relationship with the king’s son, Jonathon – closer than brothers. The closeness of the two even threatened the king, yet Saul had grown fond of the entertainment provided by this young man and kept him around. Without David around to calm him, Saul was tormented by his own demons. The crazy ran deep and wide around the palace.  David provided some little bit of sanity for Saul, no matter how deep the chasm between them, David was his drug.

When their people went to war, as was apparently expected every spring, faced with a formidable opponent, the Philistines, Saul conscripts David as a child soldier. As if this is not dysfunctional enough, David defeats Goliath with only a sling and stones.  He then proceeds to decapitate the giant and deliver the head to his king as a prize of war – YUCK! Talk about mental distress. No wonder he seems to be so bipolar – up and down, up and down. What a life this young man lived!

Through all of his journey (and this is only the beginning), David has faith in the God of Israel. His parents and his teachers are to be commended in that his faith was ingrained in him from his life early onward. He showed himself to be deeply committed to the cause of the Lord God of Israel early on. This is evidenced by his poetry/music and his seemingly personal connection to the God of his Fathers.

This having been said, the root of David’s faith goes way back to his upbringing, as well as to his personal experiences with the Lord. He carried his roots of faith through marriages, conquests, and big mistakes – David could never be accused of underachieving – when David did something, he did it up right. When he did well, he earned his moniker “a man after God’s own heart. And when he messed up, he messed up bigtime.

David’s most famous mistake was that of his affair with Bathsheba.
Nowhere does scripture strictly state that Bathsheba was a willing participant in the whole affair, only that she was bathing within eyeshot of David’s bedroom. She can be painted as a tempting seductress or an unwilling victim. We really don’t know. Either way, she is rarely held responsible for the affair, but it’s seen as David’s sin with Bathsheba.  David then tries to cover his tracks by having Uriah come home to sleep with his wife, but Uriah’s upright character foils David’s plan. So, instead of being honest or taking any personal responsibility for making a mess of things, David further complicates matters by basically taking out a hit on Uriah. He instructs the leaders of his armies to put him on the front line and then step back, basically leading to his slaughter.

The baby is born and dies after a week. Nathan sees through David’s conniving ways and wisely approaches him as God’s prophet to the king. He tells David a story about sheep. David is cut to the core as the story pulls on the heartstrings of the most sane and profound places in his soul, his childhood relationship with sheep. He earns his nickname, “the man after God’s own heart” only because of the depth of sincerity he portrays when he repents in Psalm 51.

I have been a Keith Green fan since I was a young child. I remember going to the orthodontist with my brother and my cousin at age 9 and making a special trip to the Maranatha bookstore in Jackson at the mall. It was a big event for us. My mother let each of us buy one thing for her to buy for us. I remember very clearly carefully selecting that album covered with the picture of a young Jewish man who, in my young mind,  looked so much like David or Jesus must have with a sheep around his neck.  The story of the one and the ninety-nine sheep was right in front of me. From the moment we slid the cassette into the player, I was a fan of Keith Green’s music. His life was ended early, but much of his music was critical to my spiritual growth through my formative years. In college, he became a posthumous prophet to my generation.

Psalm 51, “Create In Me a Clean Heart”, became deeply meaningful to me through many of the years of my faith growth and the formation of my convictions. The truth of the psalm speaks to many of our hearts. We all feel at times that we are broken, hurt and sinful. We seek a clean heart, a right spirit – peace and restoration. For this assignment, I composed a lament or penitential psalm based on Psalm 51. My interpretation is in blue.

Psalm 51

A Contrite Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon.

A prayer for all of us… because we all fall short. (Romans 3:23)

For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

For the one who leads us all in communal repentance. A song sung by David, the great king, the shepherd of the people.

When Nathan, God’s man and father figure to the great king, courageously approached a king trapped by his own pride and caught up in the power of his own position.

After he’d gone more than one step too far… after he’d abused his position and taken what was precious; abused his privilege and given in to his lust for another man’s wife.

Nathan accused a David, who could have had him killed for stepping up and doing the right thing, for just accusation of blatant wrongdoing by the king.

After he had been done what he knew was wrong, David was clearly and openly guilty of covetousness and adultery, caught in a web of lies. He was responsible for the murder of a loyal and upright man – a man whose character was unshakable – now cold and dead in a field of battle for the sake and name of the king. The very same king who took all he had and sacrificed him on the alter of his own selfishness. The blood of Uriah and of his own child was on his hands.

    1         Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;

According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Don’t use my own character as a basis for your judgement of me, O God. I have clearly done what is wrong in your sight. Use your own righteousness, your faithfulness and your covenant with my people as your standard. Be gracious to me – bow down from your regal estate to one who his bowed low before you in humility and shame.

I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Your lovingkindness is faithful to all generations of my people. You have set a covenant with me. Only according to your faithfulness to your promise, I beg of your compassion to make me clean and blot out my wrongs as if they’d never happened.

I don’t ask you for this because of anything I’ve done or anything I deserve. I am wrong. In every part of me I know my guilt. My only desire is for You, O Holy God, to make me right.

I know you have it in You to see past this wrong I’ve committed. Blot it out as if it never happened. I believe You, and only You, can do this. Make me clean.

2         Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity

And cleanse me from my sin.

I am dirty before your holiness. I am covered with blood and grime in my deepest parts. Nothing else can clean me. I have committed heinous acts and have gone unpunished.

I desire a clean conscience. Please, O Lord, take this power-hungry deceit away from my heart. I desire to be clean before you, guiltless and forgiven.

3         For I know my transgressions,

And my sin is ever before me.

I don’t take this lightly. I see everywhere I turn that You are holy and I am unclean. I have been caught in my web of lies and deceit. I have been guilty of wrongdoing – I am bad. I have done wrong. Make me like You. My only hope for forgiveness comes from you.

4         Against You, You only, I have sinned

And done what is evil in Your sight,

So that You are justified when You speak

And blameless when You judge.

I REALLY screwed up and I got caught. I have done what is wrong here. I have sinned against You. I admit my sin is against you. You alone hold the power to forgive me. I have done what I know is wrong. I knew better at the time and did it anyway.

I was caught with my hand in the proverbial cookie jar and am guilty, guilty, guilty. I was caught up in myself and took advantage of my power – the authority You trusted to me. I have sinned against You. You put your trust in me to govern wisely and what I have done what is unforgiveable. Nobody would blame me if you sentenced me to a horrible painful death. I deserve that and more– it is all I can think about day and night.

I beg of You, O Righteous One, forgive me. Make me right with you once again.

5         Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

This seems to be something I’ve always done – I screw up and screw up and screw up again. It is the way I am. I don’t want to be this way. I know You can make me not this way. I have been this way my whole life. God, please, make me better.

6         Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,

And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

I know you can change me. I know you want what is better in me. You see the better angels of my nature. You see what I CAN be, but only with You guiding me. Lord, I deeply desire to follow you in Your ways – to know Your path. If you do not lead me in Your ways, I am lost.

O God, teach me to think like You think. Make me truthful – not a liar. Give me Your wisdom to make decisions. Lead me in the ways of Your truth.

7         Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

I know the pungent stink of my sin leaves a bitter, rancid taste in your mouth. Cleanse me as with strong anticeptic mouthwash. Make me able to savor the sweetness of your innocence again. Remove from me the aftertaste of my wrongdoing. Take the offensiveness of the fallout from my actions and make good of it. Only You can do that.

I know you can clean this stain from me. You can make me clean and guiltless. You can remove the guilt from my heart and change the outcome of my judgement. You can see me as right in Your eyes again – only You can do that. I scrub and bleach and wash in effort to cleanse myself, all to no avail. You alone can remove this stain from my soul.

8         Make me to hear joy and gladness,

Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

I miss you. I miss happiness and celebration and glorying in Your righteousness. I am wrong and separated from You. Nothing could be more painful for me than that.

I’ve wept till I have no more tears. I am depressed and broken. I cry out from my bone marrow. The deepest places in me have been broken and shredded to pieces. Only you can recreate in me the person You have believed I could be. I have failed you. O, help my brokenness.

I long for communion with You. You alone can restore to me that relationship. All day long I hear weeping and wailing. I miss the jubilance of your songs.

You have been my inspiration and muse my whole life through. Stop me now from this brokenheartedness. Bring back Your joy to my life. I am depressed and broken. Fix me.

9         Hide Your face from my sins

And blot out all my iniquities.

I don’t deserve for you to even look on me. Forgive me of my wrongdoing. Take my guilt away from me. Forgive me in such a way that you no longer only see the wrong I’ve done. Make me right with You.

Erase the past and start over clean. Can you find it in Your upright character to forgive me and start all over?

10         Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Make my heart clean. You are God.

Take what is in me and make it strong, steadfast. Make my temperament agreeable. Help me be nice, kind, a person who is pleasant to be with – take out the shaky, nervous, unstable, flighty weakness of my humanness. Make me unshakable. Give me faith that I lack and hold me fast!

Give to me Your steadfast spirit, not my own. I am weak. You are strong.

11         Do not cast me away from Your presence

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

I deeply desire to be with you. I deserve to be thrown away like garbage. I am not worth anything. All I desire is to be with you… to be right with you. I miss Your trust in me. I have let you down. Please, forgive me and make me right.

Without your Holy Spirit, I would be nothing. I don’t deserve your companionship. I am unworthy of your approval. I beg of you not to take your Spirit from me. Don’t give up on me. I need Your correction and rebuke. Fix me, O God, for I am broken before you.
You are faithful, even when I am not.

12         Restore to me the joy of Your salvation

And sustain me with a willing spirit.

I want that joy back. I miss actually being happy, laughing and praising You. I am tired of wallowing in my depression. I need your salvation. Bring to me the joy that only comes from being in at peace with you. I have done wrong, but You have saved me. I need You. I need the salvation you bring.

Sustain me – keep me in your way.

Make me willing to be good, to live by your laws. Take from me the wanderlust of the narrow path. Change my focus and give me desire to be satisfied and completely at peace with You as my portion.

13         Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners will be converted to You.

When you make me like You, I will make right the wrongs I have done. I will be responsible to teach those you put in my path in Your ways.

Those who do wrong, I will correct. I will live my life in a way that honors and points others to you – With You and your help, I will impart your grace to others and see that your lovingkindness is taught to all whom I influence.

14         Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;

Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

Take away my guilt, O God. Clean my hands of the blood or wrongdoing. You are the source of my salvation. I take responsibility for my actions.

You are almighty God and You are Creator and Maker of me. You know how to make me right.

You have made me a singer, given me the gift of a voice.

I will sing the song of your goodness and of the Your forgiveness and of grace and mercy that makes me right with you.

15         O Lord, open my lips,

That my mouth may declare Your praise.

Give me a song. Give me words. Give me lyrics. Teach me a new song to sing… a song of your praise. Teach me that I might be the one who speaks it – who offers to others the hope you’ve given to me. Teach me, that I might be your messenger of hope to this world of people who mess up- just like me.

16         For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;

You are not pleased with burnt offering.

I would do whatever it takes to please you.

You want me, all of me, my heart, my will, my life… nothing I can do or not do will make you love me any more or any less.

I can never give enough to you to satisfy what is required, but you give liberally to me all that I need.

17         The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

What you desire is not my effort, my works, my time or my energy. What you desire is my broken and striving heart, O God. What you want with me is relationship with you. I choose You. You have promised me that you will come to me in my humble estate and give Yourself to me.

18         By Your favor do good to Zion;

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

In Heaven, I ask that you make right by your promise to my people and to me.

Build up a wall around my city. Guard my heart from my own evil desires. Make my home with You. Make my family Your people. Keep us safe from the harm that we do to ourselves. Change our ways from the inside out.

19         Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,

In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;

Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar. [1]

When my heart is right. When my life is straight in you, then all I do will prosper. My works, my efforts, my life will not be in vain. I will come before you and offer sacrifice to you and you will honor that sacrifice.

I will give you my best. I will honor this covenant with you. If I should break that covenant, may I be cut open and may you walk through my blood.

If God can change David, in all his dysfunction, how much more might he deeply desire to bring change into our lives? How much more will He bless us? How much deeper might our devotion be?

David and Bathsheba went on to have Solomon as their next child. God blessed Solomon to be a great and wise king. He, not unlike his father, was wise beyond any other. He was human and had his own weaknesses, but through David and Solomon, we have been blessed to receive the Psalms and the Proverbs… God’s words that comfort, instruct and fortify our souls. They give us the opportunity for that moment when change happens… when God makes us more than we are. For this and His many blessings in our lives … thanks be to God.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ps 51.

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Final Assignments

     Well, as I wrap up some of my last assignments for my Masters of Divinity, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve developed as part of an assignment. This class is called Integration to Ministry. It’s the exit class that’s required to be taken your last full semester. I’ve learned a lot about myself from this class. 

     As part of an assignment, I was asked to develop a Personal Calling Statement, a List of my Values and a statement of Vision.

Here’s what I came up with::

PERSONAL CALLING STATEMENT:

 God’s purpose for my life is to receive and impart grace and kindness, to love mercy, and walk humbly alongside those who travel with me.

 

MY VALUES are to:

  • Be balanced – Making a time for all things – resting and running, crying and laughing, work and fun (Ecclesiastes 3). To not always have to be providing, doing or fixing, but to allow others to live in community with me, allowing them to give to me of their time, their talents and their energies. Receiving their gifts as I eagerly give mine.
  • Be family – Making a priority of the people who love me no matter what – To mutually support people I love and who love me unconditionally – my husband, my kids, my parents, my best friends.
  • Be there – To be a true friend to those who walk alongside me. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
  • Be flexible – Making margin in my life in order to have flexibility enough to be there for people who see God in my life – my friends, strangers, committees, community. (Hebrews 13:2) Being able to actually do what’s important to me and not shrug on the commitments I’ve made to myself, my family and my friends.
  • Be a learner – Always having the perspective of a life-long learner – that there’s always something new to be learned and always a way to grow and be better. Having a deep desire to learn from every situation.
  • Be real – To be honest, authentic and transparent about my fears, my failures, my hopes and my dreams.
  • Be hopeful – To optimistically look up. To remember it’s not all about me. I have to stop trying so hard and just be – be still, be creative and trust the One who made me because “my hope is in the Lord” (Psalm 39:7)

MY VISION:

 I desire to intentionally live in a manner that pleases God, helps others and makes the world a better place for my community, my family and for those who are in need. 

just thought I’d share. It’s nice to have it all done and to go back and review on occasion. I enjoyed writing it down… I got the talk… now for the walk!

 

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“Just-get-through-it” Mother’s Day

handprints

This is a hard time of year for so many women and men who have been through the loss of their mother or their children, through death or estrangement – either way it’s loss. This is a time to remember them in prayer.
carnations red and whiteI remember those who fight through fertility issues and mourn the
actuality of never having children. I think back to how painful Mother’s Day and Father’s day have been in my own life. I think of how we never even went to church on Mother’s day when I was a little girl – because my dad needed to be anywhere else but there.

For those who are mostly just sad on Mother’s Day, I honor you and you have my respect. Prayers for you as you face the next couple of weeks.

tears10For the rest of us, I ask that you seek to be sensitive to those around you who deal with loss daily and miss their mothers or their children every moment of every day – and those who are ambushed by their own loss. Don’t feel embarrassed for them – embrace their tears – for tears heal our souls. You can’t always SEE somebody’s experiences, but you can see their need.

You don’t have to say the right thing – you just have to love them – be there for them and remind them that they are not alone. Platitudes and theodicies don’t help in that moment of need, what helps is unconditional acceptance and your presence.

My friends, when you are sad this Mother’s Day, know that
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Know that you are loved and supported and never feel shame for feeling deeply. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human. It means that that person lost meant something to you. Honor that person and miss them. You have my permission! … and if you need a hug – just ask. There are people who love you and will be the arms and shoulders you miss.

snoopy hug

If you don’t have a HAPPY Mother’s Day, I pray you will get through it and know that you are loved and supported by all those in your life who hold you close.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” – Isaiah 66:13
… and sometimes, that’s how God uses us to love each other.

May your life be blessed with the mother/children God gives you – even if it doesn’t look like what you thought it would.

hug

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Psalm 121 (paraphrase)

I’ve been taking a class on Spirituality in the Psalms.

One of our assignments was to paraphrase a psalm. I’m not sure this will all format correctly, but I’m gonna give it a try.

unto the hillsI once read a book by Billy Graham called “Unto the Hills”, based on the same verse. It brought to mind much of “Christy”, a book about her mother’s life, by Catherine Marshall, made into a popular television series in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Christy

I had read this Psalm before, but never truly understood it the way I did this time. It was an important Psalm to my grandfather. He was a dairy farmer in rural Southwest Mississippi and depended greatly on the Lord for his life and his living. I often think farmers are closer to God because God controls the weather and gives all life. When your financial well-being depends on living things, you just “get” God more than most people do. I think doctors, nurses and midwives get this too – not to mention veterinarians, vet nurses and techs!

(will insert pic of Papaw here when I find it)

Here’s my paraphrase. It resonates the place I am as a parent, a child and a citizen of the world. Hope it speaks to you.

Psalm 121

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From whence shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not smite you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from evil;

He will keep your soul.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forever.

This Psalm is preceeded by a prayer for deliverance from the treacherous. Psalm 120 pleads for peace when surrounded by those who thirst for war. “Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.” (Psalm 120:6-7)

This Psalm is followed by a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122: 6-7)

Psalm 121 is framed by calls for peace. Psalm 121 points to where the peace comes from – It points to the giver of peace, the peacemaker, the source of the peace, the reason for the peace, the keeper of the peace. It points to the one who protects us from the war, fights on our behalf, doesn’t let down the guard and won’t let us down.

Psalm 121

v. 1 “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come?”

I will look up.

I will stop

wallowing in myself.

I will stop

whining about poor, poor, pitiful me.

I will stop

worrying about the cares of the world.

I will stop

trying to understand what is of little importance.

I will stop

trying to control or manipulate

anything or anybody that upsets me.

I will look up.

I will give up my control

and realize

that I am not in charge of all this.

I will cede my power to One

who is higher

and more able than I.

I will give up

to Him

my trying

and failing.

I will look up

to Him

and call out,

“COME HELP ME!”

My help only comes from Him.

He is not late –

He will come,

even when I doubt.

I will stop trying to fix everything.

I know He will help me.

I know He is coming.

I need to step out of the way

and be grateful

that I’m not in this alone.

I’m not in charge of everything

all the time.

I will find joy in the work at hand

and as I tire,

as my back hurts or my body aches;

as my mind is bored with tediousness of perseverance

or my heart feels alone or rejected,

helpless or misunderstood,

I will look up.

I will receive the help that is coming.

I will find the peace He has to give.

v. 2 “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Like Job, I presuppose that I am able to understand

the grand scheme of how things are supposed to be in the world,

in my life,

in my family,

in my land.

I don’t rely on God to be omnipotent –

all powerful.

I try and swipe away the power myself

to control what I can.

Deep inside,

under my exterior of stability and strength,

I long for help.

I cry for help.

I NEED help.

God made heaven and earth

from nothing.

He spoke it

and it was there.

He created everything that is created

from nothing.

Who am I making myself out to be?

Of what import am I?

I am nothing more than a created creature.

I take on the responsibility

that belongs to the One who made me.

I’m not the one who can do all this.

I’m not Iron Mom

or Super Mom.

I’m not Wonder Woman.

I have no supernatural powers,

but I call for help to the Supernatural –

the one who made all this stuff

and holds the whole world in His hands.

He is not late.

v. 3-4 – “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

When my foot slips,

He catches me.

He will steady me

when I am not able

to steady myself.

He keeps me upright

when I lose my balance

and, like a good hiking boot grips on to the ground,

the Lord will give me a firm place to hold on

and will support my weight.

He will give me a strong place to push off from.

He won’t shift or fall out from under me.

He can bear my weight.

He can give me stability

and control.

Why do I lay awake at night

worrying over what I cannot control?

Why do I think I must always be on guard,

lest the enemy get in and harm me?

In times of war,

the ones who protect the innocent,

the civilians,

the defenseless;

they take turns sleeping.

I don’t need to be the nightwatchman.

It’s not my job to worry or fret

over every little detail 24/7.

When I sleep I can rest

the rest of the righteous.

I call out the Lord

and He protects me

like a wall about me.

He is an impenetrable shield

who stands between me

and the slings and arrows of the warring.

Even during time of attack,

He will not let me down.

He doesn’t get bored

or distracted.

He doesn’t go off duty

and He doesn’t stop thinking of what is best for me.

He keeps me from danger

so that I can lay down

and sleep in peace.

v. 5-6 – “The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smote you by day, nor the moon by night.”

The Lord is a protective covering over me.

He is working all day and all night.

He keeps me from harm.

He is like an umbrella in a rain storm

or on a scorching hot day.

He keeps me from the elements.

He shelters me with His peace.

He is the one who keeps me

where I need to be.

He covers me like a shelter,

like a playshed.

He is a solid roof over me.

He gives me protection and comfort

inside, away from the elements

of fear and shame

that fall down like raining arrows.

v.7 – “The Lord will protect you from all evil. He will keep your soul.”

When evil comes to me,

He will protect my soul.

He will not let evil overtake me.

He will not leave me hopeless.

He gives me hope

and keeps my soul from giving up.

He gives me something to hold on to.

He gives me supernatural moxie.

He gives me strength and courage.

He gives me a reason to heal

and courage to go on.

He gives me protection

in my inmost place

from those who wish me harm.

He acts as a shield –

makes a place I can relax

and be safe.

He empowers me

and gives me sustenance.

He gives me bright sunshiny days

to have a picnic,

to frolic

and laugh

and play

and eat

and enjoy.

He keeps me from having to live in fear.

He makes a place for me

to be healthy

and happy

and not to worry.

He can take it.

He’s big enough.

God is strong enough

to fight for me.

He makes my life such that

I don’t have to worry

about my basic needs.

He provides a safe place for me

to thrive

and grow.

He works hard

on my behalf

to see to it

that I am cared for.

v. 8 – “The Lord will guard your going out and coming in from this time forth and forever.”

His care for me is not conditional.

It doesn’t matter where I go

or when I come back,

He is with me always.

He goes when I go.

He is my bodyguard.

He is the one who watches out for me

and makes sure I am secure.

I don’t have to be afraid

to travel

or step out

of the comfort zone I feel.

For He comes with me,

no matter where I go.

He doesn’t give up on me,

no matter what –

even if I think I’ve disappointed Him

or let him down.

He doesn’t ever let me go.

He is committed to me

and will stand by my side

forever….

And the next day too.

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Perspective is Everything

the alarm went off, I heard Freddie’s voice crooning “…anywhere the wind blows…” – the last line of a song that puts me in a great mood from so many awesome memories. I opened my eyes to the sound of children upstairs yelling as loud as they could – not in alarm, but for fun – surrounded by giggles, the pounding of little elephant feet as they stampeded back and forth over my head. I heard the creaking of the wood in the hallway where it squeaks. the cats bell jingles all the way down the stairs and she darts under my bed crying, “sanctuary!”

 

2013-02-19 10.16.03i managed to free myself from the magnetism of my sleepy warm boston terrier, Willie, who was stretched out between me and the edge of the bed. i got myself up and started to face the morning. i told the kids it was time to get their clothes on and i would make them breakfast if they would get ready. they start getting ready as i start making eggs – figure i’ll try something different this morning… long story short – they did manage somehow to get some food in their bellies as i fanned the smoke from the detector. and the firefighters showed up just as i was seeing the kids off late for school.

 

our house has an alarm system that automatically calls the fire dept everytime the alarm goes off. i called to let them know it was a false alarm, but they’d already been dispatched and had to come. i gave them the property manager and the landlord’s info and told them we’d tried months ago to get the alarm service discontinued, but it still remained on the landlord’s todo list. hopefully they’ll get that taken care of. Stuffed-Brownie-Cupcakes-For-Weeks-510x510i called my mom and told her about my most recent adventure- we shared a good laugh over how many times the alarm had gone off when she was “cooking”… she had been cooking too and was excited because she was trying a new recipe, appropriately – something like this – “love from the oven” – this explains a lot.

 

then, i checked my fb and instagram – to see what was going on in the world…

 

i read posts of my friends’ whose son had surgery yesterday to remove tumors from his lungs – his chest tube has been removed and now they just are waiting on the lines to come out.

 

i read about another friend and his group of friends raising money to fight his son’s cancer by shaving their heads. Harrison’s Heroes St. Baldrick’s team

 

i read about my friend who stopped to help an elderly disabled veteran at a bank and was blessed just to have met him.

 

i saw silly pictures of babies and watched a goofy video of my friend dancing with his kids.

 

i read a post where a friend was missing her mom because today would have been her birthday.

 

i watched a video about a boy who was bullied and overcame because other people in his community stood up and educated kids about how to do the right thing in the face of fear and hatred.

 

i called my property manager to let her in on the loop – she and i were laughing about how everything must be put in perspective – she said sometimes she doesn’t want to go to work and she gets all whiney about her job- then she drives by liberty tax office and the poor guy standing out on the street dressed up like the statue of liberty, holding a sign in the rain, and her job doesn’t look so bad.

 

10 minutes later, my mom calls me back to let me hear her fire alarm going off too – i guess i come by it honest.

 

as i got my head on straight this morning, i realized perspective is everything. you don’t know what you can do till you have to do it. be the one who looks up and sees challenges in your day as just a bump in the road. somebody will be watching/listening/inspired by you. on this day, it’s likely me.

 

thank you to the people in my world who inspire me daily. i love you guys. prayers for a moment in your day to be filled with wonder at something that’s blessed you. the cause of all the hubbub in our house this morning

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Our new view

Our new view

Hello! Pacific Northwest! My husband took this photo recently on a flight home. We now can see Mt. Rainier from our front window – when it’s clear. What a beautiful view. Thank you God for making this to remind us how small we are.

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