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?

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Psalm 29

Psalm 29 is such a whimsical entry

1-2 Bravo, God, bravo!
Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
Dress your best to honor him!

God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.

God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.

God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.

The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.

7-8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.

God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”

10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.

11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.

I find this Psalm playful, joyous, and insightful. Observe what is outlined in this passage. Watch the majesty of God’s power that can move mountains (v8), while simultaneously being concerned with the business of strengthening and bringing peace to individuals (v11). God is a masterful multi-tasker, indeed!

Who but God can focus on all these things and still complete them with sheer excellence. (Hint: Not me.) God has cedar trees trembling, deserts shaking, and mountains with a spring in their step. It makes me wonder if the psalmist isn’t trying to shout like God’s thunderous voice that we little humans are as important, as powerful, and as great as every other one of God’s creations. We possess the same beauty as the sunrise. We contain the strength of floodwaters. We have the power of the Universe and one million galaxies within Us!

My prayer today is that we would see within one another the same gloriousness we so easily observe in the natural world.

You are a Wonder.

Psalm 34

In no particular order, Blogging the Psalms continues this afternoon with Psalm 34.

34 I bless God every chance I get;
my lungs expand with his praise.

I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.

God met me more than halfway,
he freed me from my anxious fears.

Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
Never hide your feelings from him.

When I was desperate, I called out,
and God got me out of a tight spot.

God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
how good God is.
Blessed are you who run to him.

Worship God if you want the best;
worship opens doors to all his goodness.

10 Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
but God-seekers are full of God.

11 Come, children, listen closely;
I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.

12 Who out there has a lust for life?
Can’t wait each day to come upon beauty?

13 Guard your tongue from profanity,
and no more lying through your teeth.

14 Turn your back on sin; do something good.
Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!

15 God keeps an eye on his friends,
his ears pick up every moan and groan.

16 God won’t put up with rebels;
he’ll cull them from the pack.

17 Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.

18 If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

19 Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, God is there every time.

20 He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
not even a finger gets broken.

21 The wicked commit slow suicide;
they waste their lives hating the good.

22 God pays for each slave’s freedom;
no one who runs to him loses out.

I like to think of this Psalm as the “Psalm for Dummies” because of the simple beauty and comprehensive instruction it provides. The basic guidelines are so easily digestible that anyone can understand– those from eight to eighty! Here is a Psalmist who says: You are hurting. You are unhappy. Things are tough? Don’t Worry. God is living on your praises! God shows up when you announce Him. If God is present in our speaking praises (v3) and in our worship (v11) then how can he “occupy” places where He is not welcome? Like schools where prayer is discouraged or not considered? Systems will remain in disarray until we invite God into these spaces. I don’t think it takes a revolutionary overhaul, just one willing soul. If we truly want a shift, one that can transform our nation we need to invite God into every aspect of our lives. We have a tendency to compartmentalize God– relegate Him to only the church or only to Saturdays or Sundays. God is not limited by our man made religions, so to be clear, I am not speaking of a “Christian” only God.

If we really want to see God move, God change, and God rebuild, we need to stop segregating God from our public and private spaces, and invite Him into our everywhere.

Helen Keller via Maria Popova On Happiness

I’ve been spending a great deal of time on Maria Popova’s fantastic and thoroughly well-researched blog Brain Pickings.

What’s Brain Pickings you ask? According to the About section: “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.”

Doesn’t that description just make you smile? Me too. Want to smile s’more? Read her recent post on Hellen Keller’s powerful perspective on optimism.  Here’s an awesome excerpt from Keller via Popova:

“Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.”

This purpose of this blog is to create that very space for your large mind. Let’s transcend together, shall we?