Light Bulb Moment from Psalm 37

Psalm 37:1-4

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

For they will wither quickly like the grass,
And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.

 

I love these verses. But this week, as I was thinking about desires, and started digging into the words, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before.

First, the word “cultivate” grabbed my attention. In my Bible, there is a marginal note that says an alternate interpretation could be to feed securely on His faithfulness… Hmmm.

Every other time I’ve read this, it seemed that I was to cultivate faithfulness — to do all the work to make it grow. I just assumed that it was referring to my faithfulness, that I needed to work harder to be more faithful.

But if I substitute the alternate interpretation, it says, “Dwell in the land and feed securely on His faithfulness.”

And look back up at the the previous verse. Notice the contrast between the transience of the evildoers and the psalmist, who dwells in the land. Don’t fret and be anxious because of the evildoers. Don’t envy them and think they’ve got it good. Don’t be anxious because of them. They may be sporting big blooms today, but they will soon wither, like the grass.

But you! Now that’s a different story. You are to dwell in the land, put down roots, possess it. You have a future and a hope there. And you feed securely on the faithfulness of your God. Don’t fret.

Then look at the last verse — “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” I think I’ve been looking at this all wrong.

It has always sounded like I start with a desire. Then I delight myself in the LORD. And THEN He gives me that original desire. That’s always made me uncomfortable because I know that a lot of times my desires probably aren’t good for me. Scary to think that God would give me things I desire, if they aren’t what is best.

As I dug deeper into the words, I discovered that one of the primary meanings of “give” is to place.  Now that was a lightbulb moment for me.

As I delight myself in Him, He will place desires into my heart. He will give me heart-desires. His desires for me. That I can rest in.

Have you seen the desires of your heart change as you grow in your delight of Him? What desires has He placed in your heart?

I love those
light bulb
moments!

Got God?

got-milkOkay, that’s obviously (I hope) a play on the “Got Milk” advertisement. And I want a “God mustache” on my face!

I’ve been overwhelmed this week by all the ways (and I’m sure I haven’t discovered them all) God has revealed Himself  in the concept of nourishment — providing us with food and drink.

Right from the very beginning of His Incarnation, when He was placed in a manger, the theme of His life was to provide us with nourishment. A manger, after all, is a feeding trough. I suppose there were other places He could have been placed, wrapped in His swaddling clothes, but in God’s infinite wisdom and careful choreography, right from the moment of His birth, He was offered as food for our souls.

He identified Himself as the Bread of Life and the Living Water, and as the true Bread of Heaven foreshadowed in the Manna. And of course, He was the Passover Lamb, as I wrote about previously.

This morning something else occurred to me. I was thinking about Him as He hung on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, and all that He had endured to that point. His last anguished cry regarding His physical condition — really, the only thing He said about it as He hung there battered and bleeding — was, “I thirst!”

Not one word about the physical agony He was experiencing. Only, “I thirst!” God, Living Water incarnate, thirsts.

We do not serve a god who waits for us to bring him food and drink, hoping to earn his favor.

No!

Our God offers Himself as our food and drink. Will you come and feast on Him today, drink deeply, and delight in your “God mustache?

Eating the Passover Lamb

Today is Good Friday. In the Scriptural account, it is the day our Passover Lamb was slain for our salvation.

As the Israelites ate the first passover in Egypt, so today and every day, I must do the same. I must anoint the lintel of my heart with the Blood of the Lamb.

They ate that first passover with their sandals on their feet, and their staff in their hand. Why? Because, “As soon as you eat the lamb, you will leave Egypt.”

Ah… Egypt is my place of slavery to food. The leeks, the garlic, the milkshakes — delightful, yes, but Jesus is better. It is my soul that hungers, and my physical cravings are but a shadow of that.

So, I’ve girded my loins, put my sandals on, grabbed my staff, and am feasting on the Lamb. And I’m leaving Egypt. Today.

Spiritual Classics – Why is Prayer Hard?

Ask just about any gathering of Christians about their prayer life, and the vast majority will say it is an area of struggle in their walk with Christ. Why? Why is it so hard to talk with God?

I’m sure if you were to answer that question, you would have a decent list of reasons, but detailing those reasons is not the purpose of this post. My purpose is to give you hope that your prayer life can flourish. And nourish you.

André Louf, a Cistercian monk who died just last year, explains the problem with the analogy of a lute player. There is the musician, the lute, and the plectrum (or pick). In the beginning, the lute player faces many obstacles – how to hold the instrument, translating the score into sound, tuning the strings, and so on.

Now I’m not a musician, but I’ve seen how this analogy works in my own life. Several years ago I decided it was time to learn to play the keyboard, so I got one, set it up, and then I was stuck. I have a rudimentary knowledge of how to read music, but every note that found its way from the paper to the keyboard was a concentrated effort. Little by little, I began to be able to pick out a tune, and I was thrilled.

One of my friends IS a musician. She plays both guitar and keyboard, and just to sit and listen to her play is to be drawn into the presence of God. She no longer has to think about how to make the spots on the page flow through her fingers and emerge as worship. Most of the time she doesn’t even need any “spots” — worship just flows out through her fingers.

Now what does all that have to do with prayer? Just this. We struggle with prayer because we have not practiced it to the point of facility. We struggle with the correct posture, attitude, place, and words — trying to make them all come out as worship.

And while I’ll never play the keyboard like my friend, I can have a life of prayer that flows from the intimacy of practice and escapes the bonds of being focused on the mechanics.

Jesus Christ, come and play the lute of my heart.

Untie My Heart

So you already know that I like words. I like to roll them around in my mind, play with them, dig into them, and see what happens. What you probably don’t know is that if the diagnosis had been around when I was a kid, I would probably have been labeled dyslexic.

And I’ve played with that word, too. Like — what would spiritual dyslexia look like? But that’s a topic for another day. Maybe.

But back to the topic at hand…

Psalm 86:11 says this:

Unite my heart to fear Thy name.

And I get that. Make my heart be wholly His, not divided between Him and the things of this world. But that’s not what I read this morning. Here’s what registered:

Untie my heart to fear Thy name.

Two seconds later I realized that it didn’t say “untie,” but “unite,” and I had a good laugh at myself. But then I began to think about it.

Untie my heart, Lord. It is full of knots. Past hurts and guilt have tangled the strings of my heart — untie them so they can resonate with your love.

Untie my heart, Lord. It is lashed tightly to the things of this world, to comfort and convenience and control. Loose me from those bonds, Lord.

Untie my heart.

Spiritual Classics – Becoming Meek

You may already know this about me, but I love words. I like to think about the deeper meaning and implication of their usage. And the word for today is “meeken.” Spell check says I’ve made a mistake, and Dictionary.com says the word doesn’t exist, but I saw it myself in black and white:

Give me Thy grace, dear Lord,
… To humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God.

~Thomas More

“To meeken myself,” to make myself meek. Interesting. I’ve thought about the quality of meekness, and whether or not I am meek, but I’ve never really considered how to become meek.

And what does it mean to be meek, anyway? Dictionary.com gives this information:

– adj

  1. patient, long-suffering, or submissive in disposition or nature; humble
  2. spineless or spiritless; compliant
  3. an obsolete word for gentle

I think the popularly accepted definition is #2 – spineless or spiritless – and that certainly doesn’t describe my Jesus!

The definition I heard once was “power under restraint.” I like that. While He lived on the earth as a man, was He powerful? Absolutely. Was He restrained? Definitely. Was He meek? Scripture says He was.

Think for a minute about some of the things He endured. King of the Universe, Creator, Star Breather, Sustainer of all life being mocked and beaten by the very creatures He came to help. He could have vaporized them with one word, but He didn’t. He restrained His power to a greater end.

But what does that have to do with me? I don’t have that power.

… Or do I?

My words have power, too. I can’t vaporize anybody with them (at least not the last time I tried), but I can definitely destroy much with my words.

And so I must meeken myself. I must restrain my words for a greater end. But to make myself meek is more than outwardly not speaking words that would do harm. It is not speaking them inwardly, either, which is much more a challenge.

With Thomas More, I plead with the Lord for His grace that I might even have the desire to “meeken myself” under His mighty hand.

Spiritual Classics – A Godly Meditation

This year I am reading through Richard Foster’s “Spiritual Classics,” one reading per week, and plan to share some of my thoughts here on my blog.

Thomas More

The first reading is Thomas More (1478-1535), “A Godly Meditation.”

Gladly to be thinking of God,
Piteously to call for His help,
To lean unto the comfort of God,
Busily to labour to love Him.

As I read this, I was thrilled but surprised by the last line. LABOUR to love Him? What a new thought!!

If it had been a blank to fill in, “Busily to labour to ___________,” I wonder how many things I would have thought of before I lighted on love. Definitely a novel idea to this modern/western mind — laboring to love.

I guess I don’t think of love in terms of labor, but it obviously begs some consideration. What would that labor look like? How do you labor TO love? IN love, I can see that. Continuing when things are particularly challenging.

And when I think of laboring, it brings “un-fun” to mind. Difficult. Perhaps dirty. Often unpleasant. How does that relate to love?

Or perhaps the word has more of a “diligent pursuit” meaning. Not giving up. Persevering. Enduring…

But either way, it definitely raises the question, “How do I labor to love Him?”

What about you… how do you labor to love Him?

Temper Tantrums and Super Bowl Tickets

My flesh is worse than a spoiled two year old! If you thought a temper tantrum with a toddler was bad, I’m here to tell you that it’s worse with an overly indulged Prime Timer. Ugly.

God created us to hunger, but primarily as a way to understand our longing for Him. And He created food to satisfy us, not just physically, but to direct us to a deeper satisfaction that is only found by partaking of the Bread of Heaven and the Living Water.

My problem is that I get stuck in the physical, and fight giving up my enjoyment of that for the greater, deeper, lasting satisfaction of feasting at the Lord’s table.

WARNING! Sports Analogy Ahead…

Recently there has been a commercial on TV that shows an older man who is holding tickets from all the past Super Bowl games. That’s pretty cool. Can you imagine getting  a Super Bowl ticket — even just one? Wow! You’d show it off, look at it with pride, maybe even brag about it. You would totally enjoy having that ticket…

But would you enjoy the ticket so much that you neglected to go to the game? Duh. Of course not.

So here’s the analogy.  For me, eating is like delighting in the ticket to the Super Bowl. I get so wrapped up in it that I forget that it is only a foreshadowing, something physical pointing to a greater reality. I let my life be dominated by the “ticket” and don’t prepare for or enjoy the “game.”

Father, help me hang on to the understanding that food isn’t a destination, but only a vehicle. It’s okay to enjoy it, but not to idolize it.

On Again, Off Again, On Again

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about being on the wagon again with my eating, and I did really well for a while. Lost 10 pounds, and “celebrated” by putting most of it back on. I hate that.

And, as you might suspect, my devotional life has suffered as a result. Some wise person once said that “Sin will keep you from the Book, or the Book will keep you from sin.” There are many areas of my life that seem to be in disarray — methinks it all has to do with avoiding God.  Or trying to. “He has His vaaayys” of drawing me back.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?”
Psalm 139:7

How silly to think, after all these years, that if I just rename my sin, it won’t be sin, and I can hide it from Him. I’m not hiding it from anybody else, either. Sigh.

And so, this morning, I am repenting and coming humbly back to the cross. Only in His strength will this sin be vanquished, but He has already won the victory. I just have to walk with Him and not head off in my own direction.

Grace Magnet

Remember playing with magnets as a kid? Or maybe you still do — I remember being delighted to watch them jump away from each other as the same poles approached. But when opposite poles got close, the magnets snapped together.

Grace is magnetic, too. It is attracted by humility and repelled by pride.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want God opposing me! Remember the Pharisee praying about how great he was, and how glad that he wasn’t like other men, men who weren’t as holy as he, and the tax collector who threw himself on the mercy of God, not even daring to look towards heaven… God is repelled by the prideful Pharisee, but irresistably attracted to the humble tax collector.

Today I don’t want to boast, even in my heart (and maybe especially in my heart!), about anything but Jesus and what He has done in my life. I don’t want to take credit for anything, or rely on my “hoarded resources” to supply anything. I don’t want to repel God.

Instead, I want to attract Him. I want to acknowledge Him in all things, and give Him glory all day long. I want more of Jesus, and less of Susan.