Why Your Story Matters

Some friends and I were having lunch the other day, discussing various challenges to find the time to write—caring for children, caring for our homes, talking with spouses, all manner of delights and duties. Then there was the other ‘D’—distractions.

In between bites of fish and chips, I lamented the ease with which I am sucked into all sorts of social media vortexes. That particular morning it was Instagram—and decried the slippery decline away from what I actually set out to do—write an original thought or two, unhindered by all those other voices.

My friend Holly told us about what she called a ‘download’ earlier that week straight from God’s heart to hers—a message that everyone’s story matters, especially the stories of those who feel they have no voice. (She’s drafting a six-week workshop on just that very thing—such a needed message.) Each one of us chimed in with our individual roadblocks to writing and the ways we fall into listening to all the other noisy gongs out there. Then we circled back to the truth–we each have a story to tell that is uniquely our own. Adoptive mom, recovered trauma victim, heart transplant survivor, grandparent and over 60 book author….a vastly diverse group.

When I sat with our iced tea and lunchtime conversation running through my head the next morning, I heard the Holy Spirit remind me what we writers do: tell the world what we know from where we are in our own way. But the white noise of other voices—actual flesh & blood ones, or virtual via Facebook, Instagram or other writers—can drown out the voice of our Shepherd Jesus.

Then I thought of the words about Jesus in John 10:3, “…and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls out his own sheep by name and leads them out.” And verse 4 “…and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

I find myself often battling not only the subtle shouts of other people’s words but the shoulds. “I should write about this,” “I should sound like this,” and so on.  But that’s a way of being pushed, not led.

Jesus leads us out, the enemy of our soul prods and pokes and pushes. I want my words to take me where God leads. I don’t want to make up content or manufacture an idea—I have all I need with the life I live to write from what I already have. My life experience is different from your life experience and the way I flesh out my walk with God may be an encouragement to you. I want to write about that.

Another thing about sheep (face it, baaaaa…) sheep are confined; they know their boundaries—and they only go somewhere else when the Shepherd moves them. I often want to be in a different pasture than my own, different circumstances, a better place. But the problem with looking over fences at other peoples’ ‘property’, real or imagined, is I’m left dissatisfied and there it is again, distracted, from the words God has given me to share.

There is only one voice, one vision and one view from where I stand. That’s all I can tell you about. As I stay where I am, nibbling on this ‘grass’ from God, I want to hear Him the way Holly did that day, to get a regular ‘download’ of ideas and words to share. And I remember I can.

When we belong to God we can all hear from Him if we are open to listening. I want to keep tuning into His voice.

What about you?

*~*~*~

My lunchmates and I are part of an online and in real life group called Glory Writers. Find out more about joining us in our Facebook group here. 

Just Because (5)

 
When we Fall
 
 
“The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37:23,24

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Earlier this year I wrote a 9 week study of Psalm 37–it was a joyous journey in God’s Word.
You can find it here if you’re so inclined.
——————-
Photo of Whidbey Island lighthouse stairway, August 2013, by William P. Collins

Psalm 37–The Finale

Ahhhhh, it’s the last of Through the Word, Through the Week–2TWSquared.

I want to glean all the grain our Father has given us to feast on as we finish our study of Psalm 37.

 For our finale, here are the last 5 verses:

35″ I have seen the wicked in great power, 
and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: 
yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.”  (KJV)             
                                                                                                                   
David ends this Psalm as he began–pointing out that people who are all flower and show really have no staying power.  They look beautiful for awhile, but they’ll eventually blow away.  
Remember verse 1 (from the Message, this time): 
“Don’t bother your head with braggarts
or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings
and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.”
INSTEAD…….
“37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: 
for the end of that man is peace.”
I love how we’re encouraged to ‘behold the upright, ‘the blameless man’ (ESV) because our end will be peace.  
THOTS:
I think my greatest struggles with non-peace come when I have my eyes on everyone else–particularly out here in the Christian blogosphere.  There are so many good writers with profound things to say.  I just don’t speak like they do, live like they do, look like they do…….pretty silly when I say that all out loud.  
But truth is, God is showing me so often how my peace comes when I keep my eyes on HIM and listen to what He’s calling me to do, what He wants me to say.  He wants me to be like Him.  When I let go and relax in who he’s making me, I’m at peace.

The Message version says, “Keep your eye on the healthy soul, scrutinize the straight life; There’s a future in strenuous wholeness.”

Wow. ‘Strenuous wholeness.’  I have to work at letting God make me whole.  Not deciding how it’s going to be done and changing in my own power, but surrendering to God and his plans. 
Sometimes (most of the time) the biggest rock in my way is ME.  God, keep my eyes turned the right direction.
INFO:
“38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” 
That’s The bad news. (The Message version says, ‘the willful will soon be discarded.’
Thrown out. Yikes.)  
And then the amazing “But God…….” (I love those!)

“39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord
he is their strength in the time of trouble,
40 And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: 
he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, 
because they trust in him.”

Our salvation ‘t’shuah’ in the Hebrew–“rescue, help, safety, deliverance” means (I think) that God saves us from ourselves….
and He delivers us, not because we’re perfect
not because we’ve followed the rules
not because we’ve never sinned
but because we trust in him.

In the ESV it says “the LORD helps them….because they take refuge in him.
This word is also rendered trust–‘khaw-saw’ (Heb.) ‘to flee for protection,
to confide in, to have hope, to make a refuge.’

The Message says, 

39-40 The spacious, free life is from God,  
it’s also protected and safe. 
God-strengthened, we’re delivered from evil–
when we run to him, he saves us.”


When we run to him, he saves us…Hallelujah.
~~~~~~~~~~~
We started out this journey walking along a pathway in the Word.  We will be Pilgrims heading for home together until we see Him face to face.  I’m so glad to have been a companion with you!

“Father, thank you that your hand is there gripping us tightly to catch us when we trip and fall, that your arms are outstretched when we come running, that you’ve given us a spacious, free life.  Help us Father to run in the way of your commands as we get closer to seeing you. For your glory and by your power and in Jesus name we pray…..Amen.”

Ps. 37 Week 8–Safe in the Land


Welcome back to our study of Psalm 37.  Two weeks left!


I’m so glad you dropped by; pull up a chair, a pillow or cushion, grab a cup of something hot and join us as we sit around the virtual ‘living room’ talking about God’s Word together.


Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 4 or 5 verses at a time (maybe more, maybe less), asking questions, defining words, and shining light on some of the gems I’ve discovered.
I hope you’ll join us and leave your thoughts in the Comments.
~~~~~~~~
The passage we’ll look at this week is verses 30-34.  I’d like to look at them verse by verse and comment as we go along.  

INFO

30. “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom and his tongue speaks justice.”

I don’t always feel righteous. I don’t always act righteous. But the fact is God has made us righteous because of Jesus. Our black sin was covered by his red blood to make our hearts white–the ‘scandalous exchange’ Charles Spurgeon has called it.

But uttering wisdom? Speaking justice?

Do I do that?  Uh, no.  

REAL LIFE

Today I was hollering across the classroom. Not at a student.  At the teacher–our head teacher.  In front of the students (and 3 other assistants).  I was reacting to a comment about a meeting I had not been invited to.  My feelings were hurt, so I blurted out a ‘why wasn’t I included?’ comment.  
Across the room.  Loudly.  Can you believe it?  And I should know better.
Not wise. At all. 

I was driving home and felt so very convicted by the Holy Spirit’s reminder to ‘whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure’  to ‘think on these things’ from Philippians Chapter 4.  

Oh God, forgive me.  Give me your grace so when I open my mouth I would ‘utter wisdom’ and ‘speak justice.’

31. “The law of God is in his heart, his steps do not slip.
The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.”

The King James renders the first line of this verse “The law of his God is in his heart…”

Every year (well, this is the second year in a row 🙂 I read through Psalm 119, all 22 verses.  It takes a number of months to do this as I meditate on the words for God’s law.

In the Hebrew, the word for law is ‘torah’ (‘tore’ ‘raw’, accent on the ‘raw’ part). In Psalm 119 there are 7 different words for ‘law’–God’s covenant revelation for his children.

There are ‘laws’, ‘testimonies’, ‘precepts’, ‘statutes’, ‘commandments’, ‘rules’, ‘decrees’ and last, just plain ‘word.’ (Actually, that’s 8. )

Again, my prayer is ‘God, give me your grace to keep your law on my heart–in the deep, ‘knower’ part of me.’

The result of this keeping?  “His steps do not slip” (no matter what doors they take us through).

God has promised, as we read last week, even if we fall, He’s got his hand on us. 
The second half of the verse, talks about the wicked again who “watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.”
Instead of ‘the wicked’ (as in awful, nasty, mean people—and there are those–but not directly in my sphere) I looked at this as simply our enemy, Satan.
  
If you replace all the mentions of ‘the wicked’ with ‘the Enemy’, it seems easier to wrap your brain around because we DO have an enemy and he is watching.  I Peter 5:8 says the Devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

We, the righteous, don’t need to live in fear because the Enemy is watching–we need to be confident when we are with our God, in His power and His name, we overcome.
So keep your eyes open while you’re on this path of pursuing God.  

33. “The LORD will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial”

David repeats this promise of God’s protection–a sure thing….we will not be abandoned to the enemy’s power.  AND, the part I especially noticed, he will not ‘be condemned when he is brought to trial.’

We will be tried. We will fail. We will fall.

I thought about the phrase ‘my words tripped me up’ and thought how appropriate that is.  My words trip me up OFTEN (see above).
But we are never condemned.  The blood of Jesus covers our mistakes. 
Every time we fall.
I just love that this is in God’s word–it shows just how well He KNOWS us.

And, saving the best verse for last….

34. “WAIT for the LORD and  keep his way 
and he will exalt you to inherit the land.”

In the ESV notes for Psalm 119, verses 2 and 3 it says this:
“The person who will keep God’s instructions, ‘shamar’ and ‘natsar’, 
(i.e. attend to them carefully, watch over them, treasure them)  
will find that his “way”, ‘derek’ and ‘orakh’
(i.e. the moral quality and orientation of his life) 
will more and more reflect God’s own character.”

So, as we sojourn with God on the pathway, oriented in the right direction with our eyes fixed on Jesus, keeping his way, we WILL be changed into the same image/likeness–that of our Saviour’s. (II Cor. 3:18)
Mu
And the result–ta da~!
Multnomah Falls Trailhead, Oregon
Not only will you inherit the land–but God will exalt you.  Exalt me?
What does that mean?  I’m so glad you asked–“to raise in status or dignity, to fill with joy or pride.” (Websters New World Dictionary, c. 1990)

YOUR TURN

How many places have we been promised we would inherit the land in this Psalm?  I counted five verses.  (Can you?)

David thought it was important to remember we will receive what God has promised–the territory purchased back from the Enemy.

freedom from __________________

victory in ________________

rejoicing because of __________________

you fill in the blank _______________________

And no matter how many times we fall, even if it’s wet, slippery and dangerous,
we win!

Ps. 37 Week 7–Sowing in the Land

                                                        

Welcome back to our study of Psalm 37….
We’re getting close to the finish line and you’re invited to pull up a chair, a pillow or cushion, grab a cup of something hot and join us as we sit around the virtual ‘living room’ talking about God’s Word together.

Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 4 or 5 verses at a time (maybe more, maybe less), asking questions, defining words, and shining light on some of the gems I’ve discovered.
I hope you’ll join us and leave your thoughts in the Comments.    
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~         


REAL LIFE

Spring is coming.  I can feel it.  The ground is warming up, the buds are bursting on branches of shrubs and trees in my yard, there is more sunlight at the end of the day, the birds are rejoicing.  It is time to plant.

I’ve got my seeds in jars in a big basket on the shelf and my catalog from
Bakers Seeds is open on the counter–I am itching to get started.

But we had a frost last night and it was 29 degrees when we woke up—brrrr….. Still gonna have to wait a few more weekends before I get out in the dirt and start preparing the ground for harvest.

God’s ‘seedtime’ knows no time.  It is always time to plant and be confident of a harvest.  Just as sure as a carrot seed will grow to be a carrot and not a turnip, our ‘seeds’ of righteousness–right living and ready repentance–when planted in the soil of our life will yield a harvest.

God has promised it.

I decided again this week to look at our verses in Psalm 37 in the King James Version.  Many of the words I wanted to study—‘justice’ for instance–were in the NIV or ESV but when I went to my concordance to find them, were not listed for Psalm 37.  So I thought I better go back to the original.  (I know the King James Version is NOT the original…..but as close to what I can get my hands on for word sourcing.)

INFO
So, here’s our passage for the week (we’re getting close to the finish line!):

 25 “I have been young, and now am old; 
yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, 
nor his seed begging bread.

26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; 
and his seed is blessed.

27 Depart from evil, and do good; 
and dwell for evermore.

28 For the Lord loveth judgment, 
and forsaketh not his saints; 

they are preserved for ever: 
but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell therein for ever.”

THOTS
Notice how many times the word ‘seed’ is used in this passage as well as the promises of inheriting the land.  I mentioned when we started this was a ‘pastoral psalm’–from the first ‘pastor/shepherd’ David who spent most of his early years out of doors on the land.

He knew about having a place to dwell and finding contentment there.

Our contentment in dwelling comes in the promises here that when we choose to invest wisely–sow our seed–God promises a harvest. 

What do you have to invest?

  • Your time
  • Your talents
  • Your talk
  • Your tithe (or offerings)
Now, I’m not going to tell you how or what to give your money to.  And frankly, I think these ‘seeds’ David mentions are more along the lines of the intangibles.  What words can you invest today in the life of a child, a co-worker, a spouse? Can you water the seeds someone else has already planted and add a word of encouragement?

What about an investment of time?  Verse 25 and 29 both speak of the righteous–that’s us, purchased by the blood of Jesus and made white because of Him.  
And righteousness looks like something–you can see its fruit. We should be kind, patient, forgiving, other-centered…(am I stepping on any toes here besides mine?)  Those kernels of care will always yield a harvest of results.

Maybe you’re planting seeds of prayer–for your children.  Mine are grown and married but they still keep me coming to the Father with petitions for God’s Spirit to inhabit their lives, for the hearts to follow hard after them.

And what about your talents and gifts?  They been given to you to give away–to hold lightly, acknowledging the Father from whom they come and giving Him the glory when He works through you.

This psalm of promises says we will dwell in the land and our children will also. And our grandchildren, no doubt, as a godly legacy continues.

YOUR TURN
  •  What ‘seeds’ do you have to invest in someone else?  
  • Is it financial–that’s an exciting privilege to partner in God’s work that way. Tell us about it. 
  • v. 25 above says, ‘he is ever merciful and lendeth...’ That one’s hard–has God ever asked you to give away something without ever hoping to get it back?  That’s how we should give–with empty, no-strings-attached hearts.
  • Is it a talentshare with us!  How has God been using you to bring him glory with your gifts?
  • What about time?  Are you giving it away at your child’s school, maybe in Sunday School, maybe helping a neighbor?  There are a hundred small things to do with this precious commodity.

YOUR TURN–look it up 
“…yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken…” 
is cross referenced in Hebrews 13:5 and Deuteronomy 31:6. Go have a look see and share what speaks to you.
  
“Turn from evil and do good” (v. 27) is repeated in Romans 12:9. 
Go look it up for yourself–Romans Chapter 12 is righteousness in action–for sure!

“…Then you will dwell in the land forever.” Look at Psalm 34:14 for a parallel.

“The righteous will inherit the land…”–how about Proverbs 2:21?

“and dwell in it forever.”  See Isaiah 34:17

I so like Eugene Peterson’s translation of this last verse:
“The good get planted on good land and put down healthy roots.”

Sowing, seeds, planting, harvest…..it’s life in the garden 
that God has given us.

I will end with this.  Verse 28 had me stumped in the King James

For the Lord loveth judgment, 
and forsaketh not his saints;” 

Why would God ‘love judgment’?  Judgment connotes something negative to me.  In the ESV it’s translated “For the Lord loves the just….” 
That’s a little different.  Does he love judgment–an action/declaration–or people who are just?
I had to go to the Hebrew and here’s what I can make of it.
‘mishpat’–from a verdict pronounced judicially, 
(abstract) justice, including a participant’s right 
or privilege or due order.’

I think what the Psalmist is saying is that 
God loves doing right by us–his righteous ones,
and to cap it all off,

 ‘he forsaketh not his saints’–ever.

He will bring the abundant harvest of life in people, 
in circumstances, in peace…when we plant and trust in him.
~~~~~~~~~~
If you want to catch up with our first six weeks of looking at Psalm 37
“Through the Word through the Week”-2TWSquared-
you can click here.

Ps. 37 Week 6–Be Upheld in the Land

                                     

Welcome back to our study of Psalm 37….
Every Wednesday for the next few weeks, you’re invited to pull up a chair, a pillow or cushion, grab a cup of something hot and join us as we sit around the virtual ‘living room’ talking about God’s Word together.

Each of our weekly ‘walks’ (which is why I chose the pathway photo above) will be reviewing 4 or 5 verses at a time (maybe more, maybe less), asking questions, defining words, and shining light on some of the gems I’ve discovered.
I hope you’ll join us and leave your thoughts in the Comments.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now……. I hope you’ll excuse me if we back up just a bit.  This week I want to look at only two verses, 23 & 24, (and we discussed 23 last week); there is a LOT packed into these two verses!

INFO:
Let’s look at vv. 23 & 24 this week in the King James.  Why?  Two reasons: 

1) I just found my father-in-law’s pocket Bible and I’m pretty stoked about that.  He died two years ago at the age of 96 and we are still going through all of his things.
2)  When I first became a believer I read the King James ’cause I was an English Major and I loved Shakespeare.
and 
3) (oops!) I learned these verses as a song in the King James.

23. “Oh, the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord
and He delighteth in his way,
24. Tho’ he fall, (tho’ he fall) he shall not be utterly cast down
for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”

And from the Amplified Bible, which I shared last week, 

“The steps of a good man are directed and established of the LORD 

when he delights in His way (and He busies himself with every step.”)


This is the way Eugene Peterson interprets v. 23 in The Message Bible:
“Stalwart walks in step with God, 
his path blazed by GOD, 
he’s happy.”

(Oh, I want my path ‘blazed by God’….don’t you?)

THOTS:
No matter which version you read, the steps of a good man are ‘established’, ‘firm’ and ‘ordered’ by the Lord.

The word in the original is ‘ordered’ and it is the Hebrew word  ‘kuwn’ (koon).  It is a primary root “to be erect, to stand perpendicular, hence, causing to set up to establish, fix, prepare. Or, figuratively, to render sure, proper or prosperous.”

It is a strong word.  Don’t you love it?  “to render sure, proper or prosperous.” What a powerful promise!

INFO:
Another favorite pathway Psalm of mine is Psalm 25, about following in the way.
Look at these verses and see how many times you see the phrase ‘the way’ or ‘his way’

Psalm 25:8-13
“Good and upright is the LORD
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
 (Aren’t you glad he instructs sinners, not people who are perfect!)
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
(Oh, Father, protect my heart and keep it humble.)
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
(All the paths. A L L, no matter where they lead.)
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name’s sake, 
(not my name but for YOUR name’s sake, 
God, to bring you all the glory) 
O Lord,pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD?
him he will instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall dwell at ease;

(Father I want to dwell where you are)

and his seed shall inherit the earth.”

(There’s that inheritance promise again…)


Okay, we’re walking, we see the path ahead, God is with us.


And then we fall.  Maybe it’s a little trip, a stumble, maybe we crash headlong.

“Tho’ he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down,
for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.”

I love the way this reads in the Amplified, “for the LORD grasps his hand (grasps his hand!) in support and upholds him.”

REAL LIFE
I felt like that today…I was walking across the playground at recess, eyes ahead on some kids making mischief, not paying attention to where I was going. Squiiiiiish, slide, oops! My Skechers were a mess–I neglected to see the mud that had settled in the cracked asphalt and it almost did me in.
By God’s grace I recovered and did not fall headlong, tho’ I could have easily.  (I have weak ankles….I’ve fallen before. Actually, I’ve crashed before–slam, bang, cut lip, crash–roller skating, but that’s another story.)

The Holy Spirit showed me why I was able to keep my balance and not fall even tho’ I easily could have–because I was in shape.  I’ve been pretty regular about walking, stretching and exercising 2-3 times a week since Christmas break.  Maybe I’m more agile on my feet–ahhh, stronger, more easily flexed muscles. More quick to recover.

I saw spiritual parallel there–when I’ve had a spiritual fall–and it’s always with my mouth (more about that in a minute), speaking out of turn, losing my temper, spewing words in anger, I fall and fail miserably.
I’m so grateful to God for picking me up every time (after I repent and we talk it over. Again. And again.)
When I think about those kinds of circumstances, they’ve always resulted from me being ‘out of shape’ spiritually–walking in my flesh, trying to be important, get my own way…whatever. I’ve neglected to feed on the Word, spend time in prayer, running on my own steam.  Spiritually flabby.  A high risk hazard.

BUT GOD…..(don’t you love those ‘but Gods’?) 
Read it in The Message:
“If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; 
God has a grip on his hand.”


We will fall. That’s a given.  And we have a Father who will pick us up.

SOME WORK FOR YOU
Look up these other encouraging verses about stumbling, falling and failing:
  • Psalm 145:14,15
  • Proverbs 24:16a, 3:23 and 10:9
  • Micah 7:7 & 8
There’s plenty in the New Testament as well about our propensity to stumbling.  
James 3:2 says:
“For we all stumble in many ways. 
And if anyone does not stumble in what he says
he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
(Yeah, here’s the ‘getting into trouble with your mouth’ part)

Now, I realize James is addressing the subject of those who want to be teachers and how careful one needs to be in that role.  But I like the fact that it says, “If he does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.”

Well, we ALL stumble in what we say–so we’re all NOT PERFECT.  And God’s okay with that. He’ll use us anyway.  In spite of ourselves.

Don’t you just love that?  We have a God who is committed to us–his dumb sheep…who are learning to hear his voice as we walk in The Way.

See you next week on the Path!

Nesting (not)

Ordinarily, since it’s Wednesday and all, we’d be chatting here for “2TWSquared”
Through the Word Through the Week.


But this is not an ordinary week.

I feel like a mama bird whose nest (like the one above, planted near our chimney a couple of years back) has been turned upside down and all the pieces of straw are flying through the air–I’m not sure where to land.

My house is in an uproar because we’re moving–well, we’re not going anywhere–we’re just moving…..into and out of an around every room in our house, so we can get new flooring.

Ay yi yi.

It’s stressing me out because I like to have a place to be where I can nest (don’t you?). My place has always been at my desk–with my books, and journals, and devotionals and paper…..and pens.  When I’m in my comfy chair facing my little wall of photos and scripture tacky things I’m just at peace.

Now my ‘office’ is in the dining room and I don’t know when things’ll be back to normal.

Seriously.

SO–no blog posts–at least on Psalm 37–for a bit….I’m not sure when/if I’ll get back to posting (tho’ Lord knows I have plenty to say).  I’m just otherwise preoccupied.

I’d appreciate your prayers.  God is good and He is faithful.
Bless you!