Psalm 24

I resonate immediate with Psalm by it’s powerful opening words, “God claims Earth and everything on it” :

24 1-2 God claims Earth and everything in it,
God claims World and all who live on it.
He built it on Ocean foundations,
laid it out on River girders.

3-4 Who can climb Mount God?
Who can scale the holy north-face?
Only the clean-handed,
only the pure-hearted;
Men who won’t cheat,
women who won’t seduce.

5-6 God is at their side;
with God’s help they make it.
This, Jacob, is what happens
to God-seekers, God-questers.

Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
King-Glory is ready to enter.

Who is this King-Glory?
God, armed
and battle-ready.

Wake up, you sleepyhead city!
Wake up, you sleepyhead people!
King-Glory is ready to enter.

10 Who is this King-Glory?
God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
he is King-Glory.

I think that first verse resonates so well with me because it reminds me of the prayer I stuck on my mirror in my old Harlem studio in 2011. Back then, my prayer was for God to lead me into a complete, utter dependence on Her. The Scripture I posted on my mirror back then was Nehemiah 9:6You’re the One, God, you alone; You made the heavens, the heavens of heavens, and all angels; The earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them;
You keep them all alive; heaven’s angels worship you!” So here in the Psalm we see the parallel between the two verses of meaning for me. The Psalmists declaration at the opening orients you (me) to the vastness and greatness of God immediately, as soon as you (I) open the Scripture. Said another way, if ya’ don’t know, now ya’ know. I also found humor in v3 that reads “Who can scale the holy north-face?” because as a Brooklyn girl that came of age in the late 90s, only one image comes to mind when I hear the term, “north face”. Here (of course) the Psalmist is not referring to bubble jackets! Rather, the north face is the most difficult side of the mountain to scale. Who but God! Can I mention just how much I love The Message version of the Bible? Always so modern and educating. v8-10 warns of an impending battle, perhaps against sin, death, false prophets, who knows? But the text is clear, the King of Glory is ready for war, “armed and battle ready,” and “God of the Angel Armies.”
So what is the takeaway here? I say maybe it is for us to continue to rely utterly on God the majestic Creator of all the Earth and to see Him and praise Her, and worship Her because you must NOW establish whose side you are on for an Earthly battle and if you do this God seeker (v6) He will also bless you with personal victories in your own individual battles.My prayer today is as follows:

I am a God dependent, God seeking, God praising, God worshiper, awake, expectant, and battle ready!

While I hold complete, unabashed adoration for the Lord, I am especially sensitive to this language of being “battle ready” today because of the ways in which current US and UN efforts are unfolding in Syria. It hurts my heart to think of the possibility that the US and its allies will wage yet another war. Equally troubling are the reports that President Assad is using chemical weapons against his own citizens. I won’t even pretend to have the “right” answer, but in praying for diplomacy without force, maybe Psalm 24 is guiding us as a nation to look away from fighting our own battles and lean more heavily on the God of Angel Armies’ strategies. Praying for peace.

Psalm 6

I’ve read this Psalm so many times over the last week that I think I could recite by heart. I feel connected– deeply connected– to it because it is so RAW and so DESPERATE:

1-2 Please, God, no more yelling,
no more trips to the woodshed.
Treat me nice for a change;
I’m so starved for affection.

2-3 Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue,
beat up badly in bones and soul?
God, how long will it take
for you to let up?

4-5 Break in, God, and break up this fight;
if you love me at all, get me out of here.
I’m no good to you dead, am I?
I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!

6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed
has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
nearly blind, I squint and grope.

8-9 Get out of here, you Devil’s crew:
at last God has heard my sobs.
My requests have all been granted,
my prayers are answered.

10 Cowards, my enemies disappear.
Disgraced, they turn tail and run.

The sadness and sheer exhaustion indicates to the reader that the author is nearly at her wits end (v6 “I’m so tired of all this” and v2 “I’m so starved for affection.Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue, beat up badly in bones and soul?”). The words seem almost forced to me at v8 (“Get out of here, you Devil’s crew”). Who among Us when at their wits end has the strength left to muster such a strong command? I know at times when I’ve felt this kind of emotion, most of my energy is spent completing only the necessary tasks. So it was startling for me to see how quickly the psalmist went from groping around in the dark to having all prayers answered. And that it was at that moment in v8 when I read the command that the light bulb moment occurred for me.

In my experience, most of my blessings haven’t happened in the blink of eye, in some immediate v7 to v8 kind of way. They’ve happened slowly, deliberately and, with diligence. So I wonder if the author here has not really received those answered prayers that she is referring to. Maybe, she is speaking her truths into existence– speaking to the future instead of focusing on the difficult present. The author’s determination to pen it, to recite it, and CLAIM IT is reminiscent of another later Psalm 31 (v23-24) which is “I know you take care of those who pray and spend time with you” and “I am trying not to lose it, to not give up, I expect you will save me soon.” Perhaps the lesson One (me? you? We.) can  take from this is that even in the midst of travails, our words have POWER.

We are guided, no, instructed by this psalm to SPEAK LIFE despite. To believe, to trust and to focus on with confidence, in demeanor, in words, and even in facial expressions, the time when according to Her plan, our prayers are answered.

Did I just say even our facial expressions should be focusing on the time when our prayers are answered? Yes, yes I did. What would that look like? A smile of course! So, you want me to smile even when I am in the midst of the storm? Now you’ve got it! The simple physical act of smiling can make you happier.

According to the Scientific American:

“It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain—there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” says Michael Lewis, a co-author of the study. “It’s like a feedback loop.”

What the author is saying is, sad face = sad emotions and (you guessed it) happy face with a smile can lead to happier emotions. Other studies have shown that even when that smile is not yet real it has the power to lift our mood. 

If science can demonstrate that a “not yet real” smile has the power to lift our moods, what do you think not yet real words can do to our mood? Or our lives?

What if, even when I didn’t feel it, I said : “I am so happy today!” or “I can feel God’s majesty working in my life” even when that’s the furthest thing from what I am feeling? Or if I exclaimed, “Man I feel GREAT about myself!” or “I love my body!”

I don’t know what would happen if we spoke these things daily, but I have feeling that like the psalmist we might begin to see our prayers answered sooner than we think.

In close, “I AM POISED FOR GREATNESS!”

What not yet real sentiments will you speak into your life today?

Honoring God, Celebrating The Universe

Have you ever received a gift so meaningful that a mere “thank you” just didn’t see to fully cover the depth of your appreciation? Once, during a particularly stressful time writing my dissertation, that gift was peace. The gift giver was God.

How do you fully thank God? I did the usual praise and worship, I tithe as diligently as my finances allow, and I was my typical helpful self (e.g., buying lunch for the guy holding the doors outside of Wendy’s on 125th Street). But that just didn’t seem to cut it. I wanted to celebrate God and give a gift to Her. So I spent an afternoon (it was more than an afternoon!) mastering iMovie and made a worship video, just for Her. The song is Jason Upton’s No Sacrifice, and the images celebrate the multi-ethnic faces Christ and His followers.

That peace stayed with me for a long time after. I think She liked it. Maybe you will, too.

Here’s my life.