Psalm 81

I have reason to rejoice
To sing praises to God
To live joyfully
To celebrate
I have reason to rejoice
If only I can remember
That God has saved me
If only I remember to listen
For Her voice, Her reassurance
God relieves me, frees me
Answers me, rescues me
But also tests me and fusses at me
Wants me to listen and to obey
To obey – there’s the problem
Sometimes I forget
Sometimes I can’t figure out how
Sometimes I don’t want to
Sometimes I lack the courage
Sometimes I don’t believe
Sometimes I just ignore Her
I let it, let God, slip away
Until I once again feel overwhelmed
Lost, angry, sad, tired, defeated
Sometimes that’s what it takes
For me to turn again to God
And let Her feed my hungry spirit
Fill my empty bitterness
With sweet faith. Amen

Prison vs Freedom

Thomas Merton writes that contemplation does not imprison God in our own ideas of Him but “On the contrary, contemplation is carried away by Him into His own realm, His own mystery, and His own freedom.”

When I capture God
In thoughts, in words
In my own understanding
I imprison the Divine
I shrink the Omnipotent
I limit the Limitless

When God captures me
In moments of love
In experiences of wonder
I am freed
I grow beyond my self
I touch the Limitless

Psalm 82

My plea to God: How long do I have to go on knowing my failings
Living with doubt, depression, despair – my terrible Ds
Even while knowing myself to be blessed
Loving and being loved
Strengthen my weakness, O God,
With Your own strength
Restore my orphaned hope
Rescue my weak and needy spirit
Deliver me from my own wickedness
I have neither sufficient knowledge nor understanding
Time and again, I leave Your light and walk in darkness
I am shaken to my core
I reassure myself that I can make my own life good
But instead my efforts crumble into dust
So, please, God, rise up in my mind, my heart, my soul
That I may remember that I belong to You. Amen

God’s Good Climate

After emailing with Norma about Erin’s thoughts:

Sometimes storm clouds
Sometimes clear skies
Sometimes rain
Sometimes sunshine
Weather changes

Sometimes cold
Sometimes warm
Sometimes new growth
Sometimes falling leaves
Seasons change

Through all weather
In all seasons
Always we live
In the climate
Of God’s grace and mercy
Her unchanging love

The Best Part of Being Older

I got a big, bright “HI!” from a toddler in the grocery store
And I was reminded of shopping with my own toddlers greeting strangers
And I was thankful for my children.

I bought a bag of Cheetos
And I was reminded of Nancy who also likes Cheetos
Nancy and I renewed our friendship each year at the faculty picnic, over the Cheetos
And I was thankful for Nancy and my friends on the math faculty.

I walked outside and heard thunder
And I was reminded of hiking with Debbie in the Canadian Rockies
We were thankful for cooler weather for the last grueling half mile to the summit
When I looked up and saw Debbie’s hair standing out from her head
And I looked further up and understood why it had cooled off — storm clouds!
We laughed as we raced the storm down the mountain
And I was thankful for Debbie and my mountain adventures.

I deposited a check at the Instant Teller
And I remembered when we didn’t have Instant Tellers
When faxes were the big new thing
When we didn’t have internet
And I was thankful for all the conveniences in my life.

I pulled into our driveway, walked through the yard made beautiful by Woody’s love
And I thought of the more than a decade after Gordon died
And I was thankful for Woody’s love and his generous heart.

I came home to my almost 93 year old mother
And I thought of Ann and Wendy and Carol whose mothers had died
And I was thankful for my mother.

I walked downstairs
And remembered Norma moving in with me
Making bearable that move without Gordon, helping make the new house home
And I was thankful for Norma and for friends helping friends.

I thought of St. Paul
And how easy it is for me now
To pray without ceasing
In a life filled with memories and realities to be thankful for
And I wrote my thanks.

Psalm 83

O God, do not remain silent;
Do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof
I need You.
Hear how Your enemies –enemies of my peace of mind – growl within me
See how Your foes – foes of my faith – rear their heads in my mind
I feel like my worst tendencies conspire against me
They plot against me even though You cherish me
“Come,” they whisper to me, “we’re stronger than your faith
When we’re done, you won’t remember God anymore”
With one mind – my mind – they plot together
They form an alliance against Your spirit in me
Like Israel’s enemies of old, these dark tendencies fight against my faith
To me they are indeed like Israel’s enemies of old
And so I make bold to claim my inheritance as one of Your chosen people
Defend me as You defended Israel when its enemies said,
“Let us take possession of the pasture lands of God”
Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind
So that they tumble from my mind, blow away from my life
As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze
So pursue these enemies of my peace and faith with Your tempest
Terrify them with Your storm of righteousness and faithfulness, O God
Bury the unfaithful, doubting parts of me, so that I will ever seek Your name
May I never be ashamed and dismayed, may I never perish in disgrace.
Remind me always that You, my God, Lady Wisdom
You alone are the Most High over all the earth – and over me. Amen.

My own parable

As I prayed through Psalm 86 this morning, making it personal in my usual way, an image came to mind that made me laugh at my own greediness. I imagined myself drowning in a rough sea. Like Peter, I was sinking beneath the waves. But a woman in a boat threw me a lifeline and hauled me in. She saved me. I was so grateful. I thanked her again and again.

We got to shore. I went home. I dried off. I loved telling the story of how I almost drowned, how I had swam out too far in water too deep, too rough for me. But I didn’t drown because this wonderful woman saved me. She was there, she used her boat, her lifeline, her strength to save me. I loved telling that story.

Then, one day, I needed money and so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her for money. Another day I had problems at work and so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her to fix those problems for me. Another time I had made some of my family angry with me so I went to the woman who had saved me and asked her to get them to not be angry with me anymore. When I realized I didn’t like myself very much, I went to the woman who had saved me and told her that since she had saved me, it was her responsibility, her duty, to make me better.

I made the woman who had saved me once responsible for my whole life, for making everything right, for making everything better.

What a totally absurd story. That poor woman who had saved me would have had to join the Witness Protection Program — the Savior Protection Program.

Fortunately for me, God is not human; She doesn’t care if I am being absurd. She is willing to help me every single time. Still, I do feel that perhaps I could be just a bit more reasonable in my expectations.

Psalm 84

How wonderful when my mind dwells with faith on You
Almighty, truly God
How often I yearn for that faith, envy those who have that faith
How often I ask why not me
For goodness sake, because of goodness, in goodness
Those whose lives are simpler than mine
Those who have the gift, the grace of firm faith
They are blessed with easy closeness to You
They live praising you effortlessly
They find strength – not confusion – in their faith
They go through life as through a beautiful valley
Watered by faith, swimming in pools of grace
Even in troubles, they go from strength to strength
Strength of faith, strength in God
While I flounder, drowning in pools of doubt
Hear my prayer – ah, but what is my prayer?
Do I really want You to make me a different me?
Do I really want the assurance of easy faith?
Do I really want to be an anointed one?
Here I am, God, believing – or trying to believe –
That better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere
I read that You are a sun and shield, that You bestow favor and honor
That You withhold no good thing from those whose walk is blameless
But in my mind You remain elusive, You come and go
One day I may spend in the sureness of You, Your existence, Your grace
But a thousand upon a thousand I spend in darkness and doubt
Struggling against all that weighs me down, all the not good things and thoughts
God Almighty, what can I pray today except that You
You who may or may not exist
Bless me as one who trusts in You and doubts You. Amen

Psalm 85

A prayer for the restoration of God’s favor

My Sovereign Wisdom Woman, You saved me, You redeemed me
You pardon all my sins
Please and praise
Help me – again – Ruler of my life, to remember that
Help me to live it
Will I forever feel ignored by You?
Will I always lack confidence that You even exist?
Will I never believe what I hope to be true?
When will I simply rejoice in You?
In Your steadfast love despite my fickleness
Rejoice in the certain reality of my salvation
Speak peace to me
Help me be faithful and turn my heart to You
Let Your glory fill my life
Let Your steadfast love and enduring faithfulness
Seal my mind from doubt
Let Your merciful righteousness and sure peace
Kiss away my hurts, my angers
Let Your enduring faithfulness be my foundation
Your merciful righteousness my highest protection
Let Your goodness gentle me, guide me
Show me the way. Amen

Psalm 76

On a beautiful, peaceful summer Sunday
All feels quiet and lush, both around me and inside me
It is easy to believe, today, in a great, benevolent God
A God who conquers my fears, my insecurities, my doubts
A God who defeats the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
That constantly war against my peace, my wholeness
On days like today, it is so easy to praise a glorious God
A mighty God, who banishes my terrible Ds
So that none of them can harm me
It is easy to laugh at my doubts, depression, despair
Because today, on this beautiful day when my internal world
Seems simply a continuation of a beautiful natural world
Today, if I look no further than my home
If I think no further than myself
How easy it is to praise an awesome God
A God who defends me, who judges me kindly. Please and Praise
A God who stills my uneasiness
A God who lifts my oppressed spirit
Ah yes, today God seems awesome to me, in my life
God who conquers all
God who is worthy of my praise and my vows
God who is worthy of my gifts, my all
So easy, today, in the peaceful beauty of my home
So easy to echo the psalmist
But how do I keep this internal peace, this faith
When the world around me turns ugly
How do I understand an all powerful God
In the face of such injustice and ugliness
I do not know, so today I will enjoy a Sabbath rest
In the beauty of Your created world – a beauty that includes me. Amen