Maggie’s Blog

It’s been almost two years since I posted, since Jason, our son-in-law got sick. Going through cancer with him took me off-line with my blogging, and in some ways, with my heart. There was so much to do, so many feelings, I didn’t blog.

I still don’t have answers, but decided to start posting again. I’ve been going through Psalms, rich in emotion and meaning, writing observations. Enjoy!

Maggie

 

 



Psalm 90 – A Perspective on Life and Death

(I wrote this a year ago, but emotions were raw at that time. It’s a little longer than most of my posts, but hang in there!)

In reading this Psalm, let’s first look at God:

  • “Our dwelling place in all generations” – Whether or not we believe it or accept it, it doesn’t change that God and the world he created is our dwelling place. He created us with a spiritual dimension that longs for connection, passed down through all the generations.
  • “Before the mountains…everlasting to everlasting” – Far more than we can comprehend, God has existed and will exist. Science can try to analyze the age of the earth or predict when global warming is going to destroy it (which goes against the science that “proves” evolution), but God goes beyond the earth.
  • “You return man to dust…” – The truth is, we can’t comprehend death with our minds. But we do know the fact that we will turn to dust. If there is God out there, he is more than us.
  • “For a thousand years…are but yesterday” – While we are so conscious of time, it doesn’t control God. He controls it.

Then, let’s look at man/our lives:

  • “You sweep them away…like a dream” – I wonder what the total is of people whom God has loved but have rejected him? They were his dreams for fellowship, to walk in the garden with him. They had dreams that didn’t include him.
  • “Like grass…in the morning…renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” – I’m spending time, lately, with a friend who is “withering” – she had so much energy before, renewed daily by her dreams for the future, redemption for relationships, dreams for her kids. As this life is “withering,” she’s looking forward to her final healing.
  • “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sin in the light of your presence.” – We all have them: secret sins. And they are all exposed in the “light of his presence,” even if we won’t turn and look at them ourselves. Either we will know that they are forgiven, or we will know that they are not.
  • “We will bring our years to an end like a sigh.” That final breath, like a long exhale.
  • Whether we are blessed with 80 years (or 40), “their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We live with sin in our own lives, in the midst of an evil world. But evil and sin are not everlasting, like God and his character is.

The questions:

  • “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” We’re talking about the God of verses 1-2: the God of eternity, of creation, of our creation. The power that inspired the “big bang” demands fear (respect). It’s when we see sin and salvation from God’s perspective, and wrath is turned away.
  • “How long?” And for those who have seen salvation, the question is “how long – how long do we have to live in this sinful world?” God, in his perspective, knows the answer, but remember, he has a different perspective of time than we do.

Conclusion:

  • “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Yes, we will always be time conscious. But let us be time conscious with God’s perspective of eternity, becoming more like him.
  • “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days…” – His love produces the opposite of the “fear” of verse 11. It satisfies. It causes joy. It replaces years of affliction with gladness and purpose.
  • “Let your work be shown…your power…” – As we get glimpses of the super natural in and around us, we can believe the incredible promises of eternity.
  • “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” – God’s favor means that all we toiled and labored over here on earth is not for naught; it has a purpose. It will be established.

As I said, I have a friend who is dying. Another friend went to her eternal home just weeks ago. They had God’s perspective on God/man/death. They knew how brief their lives were. They knew their sin. But they also knew God’s “steadfast love.” They knew the “favor of the Lord” as it was showered around them and brought meaning and purpose to their lives.

What more could we ask?

I’d love to hear your perspective on life and death or what I have written if you want to add it in the comments…

Psalm 112:5 About Lending

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

Who conducts his affairs with justice.

I always had the opinion I should not lend money. Instead, I should give freely and expect to nothing in return.

This verse makes me re-think my assumptions.

There is a time and a place to lend.

First, there is the word generously: “in a way that shows a readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected.” It’s an attitude or emotion.

I wonder what that is? Gratitude to God for having given the ability to lend? Justice is also mentioned. Maybe it is just, or right, in this situation? Maybe it’s a combination?

I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. My parents were into responsibility, teaching me to have my own money and to use it wisely. I wasn’t to share it with others, lest they take advantage of me. They expected others to save their own money and use it responsibly.

Fast forward to today.

God has generously blessed us and we have resources. We can afford to lend to others. But there is risk.

Maybe that is where the justice comes in, knowing the right situation. It might be helping someone who is needy, but who needs a boost to get out of the need. Justice might help us understand the character of the person and judge if they are worthy of our trust.

It gives me some things to think about. There is still the question of what happens if they don’t pay it back. Would I have been irresponsible in lending to them?

If it does happen, then I guess it’s time for mercy and forgiveness, freely given.

But first comes making the loan, generously, with justice.

I’d love to hear stories of when you made a loan. What went right or wrong with it? How does generosity and justice fit into your story?

Psalm 92 – Stupid Man

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

To sing praises to your name, O Most High;

To declare your steadfast love in the morning,

And your faithfulness by night,

To the music of the lute and the harp,

To the melody of the lyre.

Today, I go to the funeral of a dear friend. Another loved one is going into hospice. Quite honestly, it doesn’t feel like a good day. I’ve been sick for a week, physically and emotionally. I haven’t been in the Word; I haven’t been out of the house; it’s taken all I’ve had to breathe and take my pills. But this Psalm hits me like a deep breath.

It is a fact.

It is good to give thanks.

And for that reason, for that reason alone, I choose to give thanks — thanks that God is who he is, the Most High. When I have no control over life or my body, He still is the Most High.

Verse 6 says, “The stupid man cannot know…” At times, I am that “stupid man.” I am limited in my perspective. I have no idea of what it means to be “Most High.”

So I cling to truths: “steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night,” the “works of your hands,” the “downfall of enemies.”

As I cling to truths, a smile begins to form. My friend was faithful to the Lord until the end. She lived a life of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness through multiple marriages and betrayals, raising children who loved and rejected her, through work that satisfied and dissatisfied her, even ministry that resonated around the world.

And the loved one entering hospice is on his last great adventure. Amazingly, he’s still alive, a living testimony to so many who don’t know the Lord. He also is an example of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness as he has fought the bravest battle of his life. He still has breath, using it to bless others. I can’t help but smile at the gift God has given to us.

I am a “stupid” man in my limited vision.

But, today, I am becoming a thankful man.

This was written a year ago, but was too raw to post at the time. It still hurts as tears swell as I write.  I am still “stupid” in my limited perspective, but I rejoice over having loved. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Psalm 119:71 It’s Taken Awhile…

It is good for me that I was afflicted.

It’s taken quite awhile for me to be at a place where this Psalm doesn’t rub me the wrong way. It’s hard, next to impossible, to read something like this in the midst of suffering. In my head I thought this might be true because God’s word is true, but in my affliction, all my feelings were telling me this was impossible to survive, the worst thing that could happen to anyone.

But as the days, months, years have gone by, I’ve become more and more grateful. I’ve had a glimpse of the faithfulness of God. He would have been faithful if he had taken me, but he was faithful to give me grace and mercy in the midst of pain, which was much harder than spending eternity with him.

His gift to me was being able to journey with others, here on earth, and praise his name. After reading this Psalm, I emailed it with fear and trembling, to a new cancer friend just 2 chemo treatments into the process. This was her response:

I awoke early this morning–a little before three. I lay there and tried to go back to sleep but knew it wasn’t coming. Jim was breathing lightly and I sensed he wasn’t very deeply asleep so I tried to be quiet and still. I prayed for everyone I could think of, and yet my prayers kept circling back to myself, asking for reassurance and help with this illness. Somehow I feel I’m not supposed to pray for myself but it kept happening.

Finally I got up a little after four. The cats were chirping quietly, still not too demanding because the coffee pot wasn’t on yet. I don’t want them to get used to middle of the night breakfasts. I drank some apple juice and made the cats wait until five, when I fed them and started the coffee pot.

I have heard people talk about the gift of cancer. I have the beginning of a sense of what that might mean. There is a heightened feeling of one’s life and breath, and how it is a precious thing that is given to us. There is fear and mortality and hope and yes, doom. But overall, I am blessed and I know it.

It made me cry, tears of identification and joy. She has so much more to look forward to in this journey.

What suffering has God made you grateful for? How has it changed your life?

Psalm 114

“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord.”

Ever wonder how they organized the Psalms?

I don’t have any scholarly idea! At some point the Jews had this collection of songs that they put together in their Torah, I assume? I don’t know if they are in the order they were written, or if some scholar decided what should follow what.

What makes sense is that Psalms 114 follows the question of 113: “Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” 

You see, it’s not just that God is the God of heavens with a perspective over all the earth. He is also the God who becomes, who became, intimately involved with the earth.

What ails you, O sea, that you Flee

O Jordan, that you turn back?

O mountains , that you skip like rams?

O hills, like lambs?

We’re greeted with a series of questions, again, but I don’t think they are for the sea, rivers or mountains as much as they are for me.

God didn’t just set nature into motion.

He disrupts it for his people.

The sea fled back when the Israelites were desperately trying to escape Egypt. The Jordan turned back when they needed to cross into the land God had promised. I’m not sure about mountains and hills skipping except for the joy to receive his children.

What seas has God turned back in my life? What rivers has he allowed me to cross? What pastures have I been able to skip in that were provided for me?

Great questions, questions to reflect on.

He has turned the tide of my cancer, graciously granting me days, months, years that I never dreamed of! He has given me strength to cross rivers and do things my fears normally would not let me, like leading a conference in Thailand, confronting a sinner with his sin, speaking before thousands, leading teams and ministries. He has provided for me this week a lovely place to read, write, be with family and friends, kick my heels with joy between the mountains and the sea.

God hasn’t left me in the world to figure it out by myself, to let waters wash over me. He loves me, just as he loved his people. Even when I go through the “valley of the shadow of death,” I know he is still with me. He still has ultimate control of the earth. If I do go through the waters, it’s so I can be purer, washed by his blood.

I feel like I need to go run around for joy!

We’re currently on our way back driving from our staff conference in Colorado — giving us good opportunity to think about how rivers and mountains have moved. Tell me about God’s movement in your life.

Psalms 112 – What do you Fear?

“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD”

Sometimes it takes reading a whole Psalm for the Lord to speak to me, and sometimes he nails me on the first verse.

I’ve been thinking about fear lately. Some people think I’m fearless in the way I handle cancer, and I have to admit, I’m not afraid of death. When fear creeps in, it’s usually about leaving those I love.

But I have other fears, and I’m becoming aware that there are lots of them, some of them controlling. I’m afraid of failure, especially if I finish the book I’m writing. What if I can’t get it published? What if I can’t promote it because of my own illness? Even worse, what if it’s a huge success – what would be the expectations?!?

I’ve always been shy. I’ve heard shyness is a fear of people, not being able to control circumstances, saying or doing the wrong thing. I don’t think of fearing people, but I can see the control issues and fear of doing something wrong.

But when I read this verse, I wonder, “Can I have two competing fears at the same time?” If I fear the Lord and he says he loves me and is living through me, can I say or do something irrevocably wrong? Is anything out of his control? 

Fear seems to have some element of choice. It doesn’t have to control us. Or, we can choose what we fear most.

If I am consumed with the fear of the LORD, can I be consumed with the fear of failure?

The real issue, I’m beginning to see, is not being consumed with the fear of the Lord enough to overcome other fears.

Recently we took care of Roger’s 91 year old mother with dementia. She has always been a fearful person because of some traumatic events in her life. With dementia, her fears are even more exaggerated. But we found one thing helped. The fears melted away when she was expressing her heart in prayer.

Lord, consume me with a fear for you.

How has the fear of the Lord helped you overcome fears? I’d love to hear in the comment section…

Psalm 87 – Capitals

We’re getting ready for a cross-country trip to our staff conference in Colorado. Our grandson, Tre, is going with us, and as we go, I’m sure we will have a few discussions about capitals. It reminds me of this Psalm I read a few weeks ago.

God loves his city, Jerusalem.

I guess I haven’t grasped the affection God has for this city; the affection David and the people of Israel have for this city. I don’t share that affection for Washington DC (although it is amazing). I wondered why and cam up with a few thoughts:

1 – God founded it. He’s the one who declared it the capital of “his” nation.

2 – God loves the gates, more than any other dwelling places of Jacob. In other words, Jacob lived other places, but they didn’t have gates that kept those unwanted out. It wasn’t secure.

3 – Glorious things of it are spoken. We have so much scripture that affirms the holiness of the city as being the center of no only their nation but as their spiritual connection to their God (sacrifices at the temple).

4 – It is the center of the records of their families. It’s their personal history. “This one and that one were born in her…The Lord records as he registers the peoples.”

5 – “The Most High himself will establish her.” God not only established it, but is continuing to establish it into the future.

6 – Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.” Springs often have sexual connotations (springsthat comes from a man — a little X rated!  Sorry if you blushed!) But that’s how deeply they feel their connection to their God.

What about me, my capital, my relationship with God? It’s hard for me to relate, but I started to make correlations:

1 – God founded it — as much as we say the US was founded on Christian principles, it’s now being as interpreted as freedom of (or from) religion. DC is not the capital of a Christian nation but of a nation that has Christians in it. However, I have been reborn in Christ. Therefore God founded his city with me as an adopted child.

2 – God loves the gates — we don’t have any assurances from God that he will keep DC or my nation safe. However, I know that he will “never leave me or forsake me” and therefore, I find safety and security in him.

3 – Jerusalem is the centerpiece of their relationship with God — DC is not the center of my faith. However, my centerpiece is Jesus himself, who lives in me through the Holy Spirit and speaks to me through his Word. Therefore I confess and relate to him there.

4 – It is the center or records, from which people find their lineage — I know DC has a hall of records, but it’s one of the things that frustrates me: how poorly we know who are our citizens. We allow people who have no record of citizenship vote, leaving the door open for fraud. It seems like we could have an amnesty to register to vote and then keep family records from there? (thanks for letting me get that off my chest!) But since I have been adopted into the Body of Christ, I bear his identity, his bloodline. Therefore, Jerusalem spiritually is my bloodline. (I’ll have to chew on that more…)

5 – God establishes it into the future — God has not promised to establish the US into the future. But, he has promised me eternal life. Therefore, I am secure in my feelings about death and afterlife.

6 – “My springs are in you.” I can sing and dance, not because of my nation, but because my very life has been given to me through Jesus, because of the intimacy I have with him.

I’ve always had a hard time feeling fond of Jerusalem. Now I understand better why: so much of our thinking is political, I can’t feel  Jerusalem as my capital.

But when I think of my relationship with Jesus, it all makes sense.

And I sing and dance!

How do you feel about Jerusalem? How has this Psalm affected your thinking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments…

Psalm 96:11-13 And Let it Happen!

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

Let the field exult, and everything in it!

 Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

Before the LORD, for he comes,

For he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness,

And the peoples in his faithfulness.

And what happens when we worship? My goodness, what doesn’t happen?!?

First, the heavens and the earth become glad. The sea roars, trees sing, fields exult. OK, I know the waves already crash and the wind in the trees sing, and fields give us beautiful bounty. But, as we worship, be come so much more in tune with their songs, delighted in their beauty.

“In the beginning,” man was created for the earth, to tend it and enjoy all it’s beauty. Because of the sin that resulted in the busyness of life, we don’t have the time to truly listen, to truly enjoy it in all it’s wealth. Out of worship and oneness with God, we can experience it in new ways. Our values can be readjusted; what we delight in can be changed.

And instead of fearing judgement with the impossible standard of perfection, he meets us with his faithfulness. Note: not our faithfulness. We can never be faithful enough. But if we are forgiveness and made perfect by his perfection, then we are sealed in his faithfulness. (2 Timothy 2:13)

What we do is simply “be his people,” acting on the faith that we have and bringing it to him. So simple…so hard…so engaging.

How has worshipping God changed your view on the world around you? I’d love to hear from you…

Psalm 96:9-10 Worship

Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

Tremble before him, all the earth!

 Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!

Yes, the Lord is established; it shall never be moved;

He will judge the peoples with equity.

After singing and ascribing comes worship. I wonder why?

At least for me, it’s an outcome of getting touch with emotions and my heart.  The beauty of the words in the songs connects with the expression of my heart as I read the words or remember the words I have written myself to God.

I remember a time when I was far from God. I didn’t want to go to church. I wasn’t sure if everything I had believed was just a nice story from my parents.

I did go to church with a boyfriend. It was a very different style of church than I was used to. They sang different songs and believed different things than what I had grown up with.

As I went through the motions of reading the words, sometimes singing, sometimes not because I refused to sing what I didn’t believe, it did something to my heart. Slowly, I softened. I acted or sang what I could believe. I didn’t get caught up in what I didn’t believe. And as I believed, God blew life on those embers of faith until slowly, so very slowly, they became a fire.

As you read this, you may not be able to worship God in the glowing terms of this Psalm. You may not tremble because you don’t believe. But what do you believe? Do you ascribe anything to him?

Take what you have, what he has given to you, and return it in worship. Because if there is holiness, if there is righteousness, if there is equity, it is the definition of who God is.

How do you feel about worshiping God? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Psalm 96: 7-8 Ascribe to the LORD

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,

Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

So, we now shift from singing to ascribing — what is the difference?

Ascribe is defined as, “to credit or assign, as to a cause or source; attribute.” In this Psalm, we are crediting to God that he is the cause/source of people. We are crediting to God and his character glory and strength. We are crediting to God the glory due is name(s).

As a writer, I can’t help but notice “scribe” in the word, the verb “to write.” Singing is hearing; scribing is a visual way to communicate.

Often we are encouraged to journal, to write down our thoughts and feelings. Just the transfer of those internal intangibles into black and white words puts some validity to them. Seeing them in words helps us process them until we understand more clearly the truths they behold. We get in touch with the reality of ourselves.

Recently a friend of mine went through an “unspeakable” horror. I was glad when she was able to write just a few words about it to me. It was an honor to read them, and I cried with her pain. I believe just being able to put it in a few words may have been helpful to her heart.

Ascribing to the Lord what we believe of him is also helpful to our soul. It might be wonderful, glowing things like this Psalm, but for some of us, what we ascribe might be hard experiences we have had with him, things we haven’t dared to say aloud. It’s OK whatever we ascribe to him — he’s big enough to take it! It just helps us to get it out on paper.

And in the process, we may obtain truth.

What would you ascribe to the Lord? I would love to hear about it in the comments…