I grew up in a culture that is—like the ancient Israelites—much more shame oriented than guilt oriented. Guilt tells us we broke a rule and gives us the energy to stop breaking the rule or to fix what we broke. Shame is very different. Shame tells us that we are getting close to doing or did something that is not in line with who we are.
As we begin this Psalm we hear the despondency in David. Often in our lives we have trials and tribulations and the LORD feels hidden from us. We are walking in sorrow and sometimes self-pity as we ponder the struggles we face. We ask the LORD, where are You? Our burdens feel overwhelming and we feel hopeless in the struggle that is before us or we are in the middle of during a season. We feel like God has forgotten us and that we are all alone in a difficult situation. As the Psalm progresses we read,
Take a moment for some self-reflection. What does power and control mean to you? If you are like me, being personally in control brings comfort. Things can be done exactly the way I want them to be done and when I want them to be done. Whether this is with tasks around the house, work, or relationships, having control is what brings me a sense of peace. Oppositely, when I am not in control, stresses arise. How will things get done? Will they even get done? Is someone else going to do them and receive all the praise?
What if told you there is a new product out there that is changing lives. It is known to refresh you at your most exhausted point, increase your clarity, and make you more joyful. After using it for awhile you will start to understand things that you didn't before and desire it more than wealth. It will last forever so no need for buying replacements or renewing your membership. It's completely trustworthy - no gimmicks here. As an added bonus, you will continue to receive rewards the more you use the product.
Do you remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and the gang finally make it to the Emerald City and are given audience with The Great and Powerful Oz? What they find is rather terrifying. As Dorothy makes her plea, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion all cower in fear, shaking. They are met with a loud booming voice like thunder that echoes all around them– the great Wizard of Oz upon his throne, surrounded by smoke and fire and flashes of light and the clanging of cymbals.
Circumstances. Take a minute to stop and think of what that word is and means. For me, circumstance is what I use to gauge my day, my mood, my demeanor. If I am honest, I allow circumstances to dictate my joy, or lack thereof, far too frequently. Psalm 126 is a very strong reprove against this. The first verse states, "When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream." It continues on with, "Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.'" This psalm reminds the reader that God is merciful and loving, and it is His work in restoring His people, His children that leads to joy. Our joy should not come from our circumstances and the fulfillment of what we believe should occur, but should instead come from the steadfast, unchanging grace, mercy, and provision of our God. "When the LORD restored our fortunes..."
Once upon a time at my high school, I distinctly remember a “popular” girl giving me some unusual positive attention. She excitedly reminded me of a time in elementary where we sang a song together in front of the whole school and how fun that was. I soon came to discover she was really only interested in the bag of M&M’s in my back pack…
Happy New Year! As I was ringing in 2018 playing Settlers of Catan (a board game) in my pajamas, my eye kept wandering to a sign that our friends recently put up in their kitchen. “365 New Days, 365 New Opportunities” In the beginning of a new year, this type of thought can be exhilarating, yet at the same time frightening. How refreshing it is to have a new year to achieve and try new things, yet also slightly unsettling due to the inevitable accompaniment of difficulties and struggles?
By now most of us are starting to get back into the flow of the newly begun year. Some of us are excited at the fresh beginning. Resolutions guiding us to what will certainly be our best year yet. Others are more cautious, no less hopeful but perhaps with more soberness to what could be. Regardless, here you are today, once again, at a beginning. Naturally beginnings afford us the stimulus to observe where we are and where are we going.
Our Psalm for this week is Psalm 146. In the middle of the psalm, verse 6 says that God “keeps faith forever”. The verb to keep means “to have or retain possession of” and “to continue or cause to continue in a specified condition…”.
If I am honest, Christmas day offers me little space for reflection. Especially now as a parent. The moment eyes open the day is off and running full of excitement, surprise, laughter, and too much dessert! Perhaps there will be a quiet moment about 3 o’clock, but by then food has settled and along with it I am settled down to an afternoon nap. Awoken again by the sound of card games being played and family reminiscing of stories too embarrassing to share with anyone else; not to mention the loud toys given by uncles and aunts without kids! It is a good day! A joyful day! Just not a quiet day.
Advent is a peculiar season. For several weeks, the Church reflects on what it means that Christ has come and will come again. We weave together two very pivotal epochs of salvation history into a single thought. We talk about how what Christ has done and will do, influences the present moment. We trace story lines of old and anticipate story lines that have yet to play out. We remember, we long, we wait, we celebrate and we hope. And more peculiar still: we do all of this simultaneously! This may seem strange, confusing or even foreign to everyday life and you may think it extremely counter-intuitive or even contradictory. But as I think Psalm 85 will show us, this is actually a very healthy, mature and worshipful posture for us as God’s children; not only during the season of Advent, but for every season of the believer’s life in Christ.
Preparing this devotional has turned out to be more than I bargained for. I was given four pages of instructions on how to write it, including no less than 13 questions to ask myself, and get this – a written admonition not to overthink it! Thankfully, I was also encouraged to write in my own voice and in a way I’m most comfortable. The process has required prayer, and as you’ll see at the end, it’s also inspired a prayer.
In Psalm 149, I hear the psalmist asking me to sing a new song to the Lord. A new song of praise is needed, because this one should ring out like a battle cry. We are not offering ordinary praise for an ordinary god. This is me singing at the top of my lungs, jumping up and down, dancing like a maniac, shouting praise and glory to the King of kings! This is me, singing for joy on my bed!
When Andrew, my four-year-old was belting out lyrics to a praise song in the car the other day, he turned to me and said, "Mama, Jesus loves when I sing to Him." The lyrics to his song were not completely correct, his tone and pitch were far from perfect, but none of that mattered. God loves when we praise Him.