Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Archive for April, 2022

Psalm 33

1 Rejoice, you righteous, in the LORD; praise from the upright is fitting.

2 Give thanks to the LORD on the harp; on the ten-stringed lyre offer praise.

3 Sing to him a new song; skillfully play with joyful chant.

4 For the LORD’s word is upright; all his works are trustworthy.

5 He loves justice and right. The earth is full of the mercy of the LORD.

6 By the LORD’s word the heavens were made; by the breath of his mouth all their host.

7 He gathered the waters of the sea as a mound; he sets the deep into storage vaults.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all who dwell in the world show him reverence.

9 For he spoke, and it came to be, commanded, and it stood in place.

10 The LORD foils the plan of nations, frustrates the designs of peoples.

11 But the plan of the LORD stands forever, the designs of his heart through all generations.

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people chosen as his inheritance.

13 From heaven the LORD looks down and observes the children of Adam,

14 From his dwelling place he surveys all who dwell on earth.

15 The One who fashioned together their hearts is the One who knows all their works.

16 A king is not saved by a great army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength.

17 Useless is the horse for safety; despite its great strength, it cannot be saved.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, upon those who count on his mercy,

19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive through famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD, he is our help and shield.

21 For in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.

22 May your mercy, LORD, be upon us; as we put our hope in you.

-Ps. 33, New American Bible, Revised Edition

This is a song of hope. It’s no rosy picture, no claim of sunshine and “all’s right with the world.” The psalmist paints an honest picture of what God’s people face in the world, because that’s the only way we can understand what God does and wants to do for us.

We’re called to exult — not because everything around us is great and perfect, but because we belong to a God who deeply loves and cares for His creation, a God Who keeps His Word, loves justice, and leads those who believe in Him and trust Him into a place where His own kindness and justice prevail.

This song of hope does not ask us to ignore or blithely pass by the evil forces around us, but rather to see them clearly and recognize that God is greater than they are, that His love for us enables us to overcome them.

This song of hope leads us right into the Gospel reading for this day (John 6:16-21). The wind and the storm are very real, and the fear of the disciples as they row out into the sea in its midst is also very real. Their fear is so real and so intense that it keeps them from recognizing Jesus when He comes to them walking on the sea. And then His voice reassures them, and their deliverance from fear is instantaneous as “the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.”

What we so often fail to see and understand, as we face our daily trials and tribulations, as we encounter the evils that surround us in this world, is that God wants to protect us and save us from it. In Jesus, He comes walking on the turbulence that surrounds us. Psalm 33 reminds us not to put our trust in the wrong things, but to rejoice in the protection that God alone offers.

I’ve felt for some time that I needed to spend time with the Psalms and in reflection on their place in my spiritual life. It seems like reflecting on the psalm selected for the day’s readings is a good place to start. What I’m finding most amazing is how closely these psalms are fitting my current spiritual needs. As my soul begins to find its way out of what I’d call a minor spiritual darkness, as I recognize my tendency to resist the workings of the Holy Spirit and His very gentle but insistent promptings to overcome that tendency, today’s psalm reminds me that God has a plan for me. And His plan is the only one I need to be concerned with, because He alone is trustworthy. His Word, in all the ways it enters my world, is all I need.

So there is the plan for me: Listen. Trust. Repeat.

I can live with that.

Where Is God’s House?

A Reflection on the Psalm of the Day, 4/29/2022

Psalm 27

1The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?

2When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh,

These my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear;

Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust.

4One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.

5For God will hide me in his shelter in time of trouble,

He will conceal me in the cover of his tent; and set me high upon a rock.

6Even now my head is held high above my enemies on every side!

I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing and chant praise to the LORD.

7Hear my voice, LORD, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me.

8“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”; your face, LORD, do I seek!

9Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger.

You are my salvation; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior!

10Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in.

11LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

12Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me.

13I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living.

14Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!

(Ps. 27, New American Bible, Revised Edition)

This desire to “dwell in the Lord’s house” – my first thought is that it’s a desire for heaven. It’s where I’ll go, someday, when God decides my time on earth is done. That’s hard to hang onto, though. It’s a nebulous “someday” kind of thing, not something I can hold onto firmly today, in the moment.

So where exactly is the “Lord’s house”? He has placed me in this present world and surely means me to live here until it is time to live in heaven. The physical church, of course, is the Lord’s house. It’s our place for worship, for connection with God and all the Persons of God, for receiving the grace He offers. It seems unquestionable that spending more time there is a good thing. But I can’t live there, can I?

The Lord’s house must be somewhere else, then. Somewhere readily accessible to me and readily accessible to God. Somewhere that I can actually live, a place where I can be in communication with God at any and all times, a place where I can encounter God in the ways He chooses to reveal Himself to me.

Perhaps it will help me identify this place if I think about why I need it. Why do I want so much to live in the Lord’s house? The Psalmist understood this and expressed it eloquently: my world is full of enemies, and I need protection from them. Left on my own I’d be helpless against these enemies. And I need to understand who and what they are if I’m going to overcome them. These enemies, according to verses 11 and 12, are malicious liars who want to keep me away from God. They are, I think, the things of the world that make themselves attractive so as to draw me away from God. They are the ideas and desires that make me regard myself as the center of my own life, and thus as more important than God.

Described this way, these enemies are truly terrifying. Only by living in the Lord’s house can I be safe from them! So where is it? How do I get there?

The answer is simple, isn’t it? The God who is my light, my salvation, my life’s refuge (vs. 1-2) is all around me. The world around me is first and always His own creation. He fills it, and invites me to dwell in it. He makes it safe for me. He promises to dwell in His creation, and He promises that those enemies that seem so terrifying will in fact stumble and fall before Him.

He promises.

There is the triumph. There is the reason I can hold my head high in the face of those enemies. This is how I can trust, rather than living in fear: He promises.

He promises, and I can count on that promise to and through my last bodily breath: “10Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in.”

This is where I dwell: The Lord’s house, where grace is in constant supply and where peace is readily mine, if only I can let go of the lies the world wants to tell me.

This is where I dwell: The Lord’s house, where those enemies can shout their lies right up to the doorstep, but because I dwell here, and this is the Lord’s house, they can’t get in.

This is where I dwell: The Lord’s house, where my path is level and where the Lord shows me the path and leads me on it. I have only one choice to make, and that is to dwell here in safety and to trust God.

Because He promises. And unlike those enemies, who lie, God makes good on His promises. I know, because I keep seeing Him do it every day.

Seeing Psalm 27 as the psalm of the day for this April 29, 2022, is especially reassuring to me after several weeks of emotional turmoil. I’ve felt by turns sad, angry, lonely, and generally irritated; I’ve experienced joys and then right next to them, intense sorrow and loss; I’ve come through a time of wallowing in all this pain and sadness to a realization that God was using some interesting ways to renew His call to me.

I was in danger of getting so embroiled in the negativity I began to feel that I could not even remind myself to turn to God. It took the observation of a therapist to set me in the right direction. She told me that she did not see “depression” in what I described to her; she saw, instead, a spiritual crossroads, where I stood unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to hear what God was asking of me.

My default methods of handling life – tamping down what I saw as “negative” emotion and weakness, holding up a “strong” front to the world – were proving to be less than equal to the enemies out there. I realized that I needed to be open rather than trying to close myself off from those feelings. When I began to let myself feel, and to cry, I used the moment as an opportunity to offer God my sadness and pain and to ask Him what He wanted me to learn, where He wanted me to go with this.

He was very quick to answer, and by His grace I have embraced His answer.

The Psalmist rejoices that God is with us always. By this knowledge, we dwell in the Lord’s house at all times. He promises, and in His promises we are filled with joy.

And I can live with that.

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