Think Again

Often at night I lie in bed and remember You,
    meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window.
You have been my constant helper;
    therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
    Your right hand reaches down and holds me up.

-Psalm 63:6-8 The Voice

Sometimes relief from the exhaustion of wrestling with worry and anxiety is a matter of replacing intrusive thoughts that recycle disappointment and diminishing hope with better thoughts, like thoughts of God’s greatness, of dreams fulfilled, of joy in the morning. Sometimes when our hearts ache and start to slip down the slope of dismal forebodings, our Helper and Protector gently suggests it’s time to change the diet of despair we are feeding our souls.

Sometimes, it’s not the time to escape into denial and thoughtlessness. Sometimes it’s time to have another thought, a better thought, a Holy Spirit-breathed thought. Sometimes it’s time to think again.

The Road Back: Psalms of the Sons of Korah, Grace and Glory

What a change! From the pit of despair to the height of the grace and glory of God’s presence. Wow.

Do you remember the starting point for the leader of the rebellion in the wilderness, when Korah and his followers blamed Moses for all their problems? Here is some background of the story.

Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it too small an honor for you that the God of Israel has singled you out from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to perform the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them; and that He has brought you near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi, with you? But are you seeking the priesthood as well? Therefore you and your whole group are the ones gathered together against the Lord; but as for Aaron, who is he, that you grumble against him? (Numbers 16:8-11NASB)

Many years later, a remnant group of descendants, who had born the stigma of being from the family that rebelled, found their way home. In his deliberate denial of God’s goodness and lack of trust in his plan to rid them of old mindsets in the process of going to the Promised Land, Korah and his friends and followers demanded power for themselves. After travelling the path of repentance, the path of changing course and returning to God’s ways, the once shamed band of poets and musicians King David assigned to lead worship experienced finding their true home. They wrote in Psalm 84:

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
Lord of armies!
 My soul longed and even yearned for the courtyards of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may put her young:
Your altars, Lord of armies,
My King and my God.
(verses 1-3)

Korah and his friends were jealous of Aaron. They had served the congregation on the threshold of the tabernacle, but they wanted more power.

The Sons of Korah found the God they served on the threshold of the Tabernacle generously poured grace on them, even though they didn’t rise to hold positions of highest honour in men’s eyes.  This is where they experienced his glory. God did not withhold any good thing from them as they walked in integrity and simply worshipped. They found joy in service, not in control.

For a day in Your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.
Lord of armies,
Blessed is the person who trusts in You!
(verses 10-12)

As Gayle Erwin wrote, “No one jostles for the position of servant.” It takes a long time for some of us to realize that ambition can drive us seriously off course when the goal is to have control, or to gain a position that demands respect, or accumulate fans, or make money. The road back from rebellion is the road to joy and godly contentment. It’s learning that striving to reach our own definition of the “top” is itself a form of slavery. It’s a change of heart that comes more in line with the truth of the gospel that if Jesus, the Son of God sets you free, you will be truly free. The road back is discovering that God is who he says he is, and he is worthy of our trust.

Blessed is the person who trusts in You!

How lovely is thy dwelling place – Johannes Brahms, John Rutter, Cambridge Singers, Aurora Orchestra – YouTube

Better Is One Day – Here Be Lions (Official Live Video) – YouTube

Things to Do

This may be the ultimate in lazy photography. I woke up and saw the sun shining through the window. I liked the way it looked, even without my glasses. I grabbed my phone and snapped a photo –still without my glasses. Who needs focus when the light is right?

Those flowers on the ledge were meant for someone else, but they started dropping petals before I could take them to her. They looked a little past their prime, but not dead yet, so I stuck them on my own window ledge with plans to get her something else. Then the sun lit them, and the whole room, a golden yellow.

I put my glasses on and sat on the edge of the bed. That’s when lines from a song by Kristene Demarco started playing in my head (and heart).

Let me show you what I see.
You can’t dream too big for Me.
So get up, get on your way.
We’ve got things to do today.
Fear not!
If I could say it any louder, I would!

I’ve been feeling discouraged lately. My body can’t keep up to the pace it used to. I’m behind schedule. I should be much further ahead in in spiritual and emotional maturity by now. People around me are excited about new projects and I feel like I’m still knee-deep in mop-up operations. There are things that have been the focus of my prayers for such a long time that are still a mess.

Then I remember that “dis-couraged,” like “dis-graced,” is description of lack, the removal of something that was once there. My heavenly Father no more deprives me of courage than he deprives me of grace. He is the source of courage as much as he is the source of grace — and I have already experienced his lavish grace in weakness.

Thank you, Lord for comfort in the form of a sunbeam and a song. Tears of joy come in the morning.

Invitation

We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

I’m not a morning person. I never have been. Lately, it’s becoming more difficult to get moving in the morning, but my husband needed me to drive him to an early meeting. On the way home, I impulsively decided to see if my favourite garden was open. It was, by a minute or two. The sun revealed colours I hadn’t seen on the gate before.

“Come away with me,” I heard.

I hadn’t planned to go. In fact, I was grumbling about pushing through the pain to get moving and accommodate another person’s agenda.

I heard the invitation.

I said yes.

It was so beautiful!

Every Movement of My Heart

Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.

You perceive every movement of my heart and soul,

and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.

You read my heart like an open book

and you know all the words I’m about to speak

before I even start a sentence!

You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.

Psalm 139:1-4 TPT

I took one of those personal trivia quizzes that pop up every once in a while on social media. Yes, I know they are designed to search for data that sells us (the product) to potential advertisers. They might think they know me, but they don’t. Not really.

The test asked about hidden talents. I wrote “invisibility.”

Not long before, I ran into some people I had grown up with. We were either in the same class at school or in the same Sunday School class or youth group for years. One person I had known well and spent time with a couple of times a week for sixteen or seventeen years, couldn’t remember me, although she remembered my cousin with the same surname who had only lived in the same town for two years. Another guy vaguely remembered me as the really quiet girl who was the friend of the really brainy girl. That was at the same school where a teacher insisted to my parents that I wasn’t in his class. When they pointed out my name on the register he said, “Well then, she ought to learn to speak up.”

I have learned to speak up, much to the chagrin of those who complain that now I talk too much. They are right, but my response to that criticism tends to be to want to put on the invisibility cloak of my childhood again and try to content myself with watching life from the shadows like I did before I let God heal the shame that held me there so long. Sitting in the dark singing another chorus of “Nobody Likes Me” is not nearly as uplifting as singing a chorus of “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” It’s not a healthy response.

The truth is nobody but God really knows us; we don’t even know ourselves. The search for connection comes from the search for our Creator who knows everything about us and still loves us. He is not disappointed in us because he had no illusions about our state in the first place. It has always been his intention to save us from the messes we have made and the resulting consequences of guilt and shame.

To be known and understood and loved is joy. Without God we are in a constant state of looking to other imperfect people or inanimate things to fill our built-in need for love from someone all-knowing and totally trustworthy, someone who truly knows us, someone who sees the ugliness but moves to bring out the beauty he placed there.

Steffany Gretzinger sings about the joy and hope in being known and loved by Love Himself.

Today

There is something particularly precious about the last flowers in the garden at the end of the season. We know the frost will show up one of these nights.

Sometimes we can sense a change in the atmosphere, a shifting in the angle of light, a different scent in the air. Change is coming.

Change means we eventually may need to let go of the rewards of past efforts, but today we stop and admire the beauty in this moment. Today we thank God for his faithfulness. Today we sing.

Golden

I went for a walk down in the lakeshore district this week. It’s getting harder to walk very far, but as I passed under a bower of heart-shaped golden leaves in the warm golden sun beside a golden house, I looked up and smiled.

The golden years are not a time to measure accumulated losses of youth and potential. The golden years are a time to celebrate the accumulated goodness of God and give thanks for his continued faithfulness.

Golden hearts? Yes, I see them. They are lovely! Thank you, Lord! I love you, too.

Oh Thou In Whose Presence My Soul Takes Delight

Only a few weeks ago, this patch of lavatera flowers springing forth like a delightful fountain of pink joyfulness was a barren patch of dirt.

I didn’t plant them, nor did I water them. I saw them growing in the community garden next to our building. A gardener who rents the plot planted them in amongst practical and edible kale and beans and tomatoes. These flowers don’t have 300 uses like the peanut or end up in a myriad of product like corn. Their only role is to simply be beautiful and to lift the spirits of those who pass by.

I am learning to stop and appreciate beauty when I see it. I also appreciate those who develop varieties of plants suitable for local environments and resistant to pests and disease. I appreciate the tillers and planters and waterers. I love the ingenuity and creativity of inventors and developers.

I most appreciate a God who created beauty to inspire us to create beauty. I appreciate soaking in the beauty of his presence when it serves no other purpose than show me I am loved and that a good Father loves to give good gifts.

When affliction comes (and he said it would) a patch of pink flowers, rising up from the soil that lay dormant for so many months, can remind us that God is good. Beauty says hope restored is a tree of life.

The song in my head today: