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 86:5-7 You and Me – Confidence

For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving

Abounding in steadfast love

to all who call upon you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;

Listen to my plea for grace.

In the day of trouble I call upon you,

For you answer me.

Contrast this stanza to the first stanza. They are both requests for the Lord to hear David but are fundamentally different. The difference is within the soul of David.

First, he focuses on the LORD and who he is: good, forgiving, steadfast. There are no pretenses of godliness, but recognition of the goodness of god and how he forgives sin.

Second, he requests grace instead of salvation. As he’s been able to relax as I sought the LORD, he moved from panic for his life to grace for the moment.

Third, he calls on the LORD again, but this time with confidence that the Lord is going to give him grace and answer him.

The pivot point is focus.

When I pray, it is about me and my needs or is it about him?

What about the character of God gives you strength, grace, hope?

Psalm 86: 3-6 Me and You Request #1

Be gracious to me, O Lord,

For to you do I cry all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

For to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

David’s first request is for grace for his soul. He seems to know, with the heart condition he is in, changing the circumstances won’t change his heart. He is desperate. He needs hope.

And he can’t move ahead without it.

I’ve been there, crying out to the Lord all day. The circumstances are consuming me, overwhelming me. I can do little else. I can’t think; I can’t give; I can’t see a way forward.

I know to see change in me, I have to get it together. But I’m too lost in the midst.

I need to lift up, not the circumstances, but my soul. Unless I have faith in something bigger than myself, it is hopeless because I am hopeless.

What I need is gladness; gladness comes by grace.

Not gladness in the situation; not gladness in my abilities; not gladness in my strength. It’s gladness by the grace of God.

Many of you know I’m fighting an incurable cancer and have been for a long time. There is very little gladness in the process. But there is gladness in waking every day, knowing that God has some purpose of letting me wake up, giving me the opportunities of the day.

The adventure is in figuring out what that purpose is!

I know frozen fear well, not knowing how to move forward. Would you be willing to share some an experience when you were frozen?

Psalm 86:1-2 Me and You or You and Me

Incline Your ear, O LORD, and answer me.

For I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

Save your servant, who trusts in you

You are my God.

Just like David, often we enter prayer with a mix of me and you. We call out to God because of our own need, mixed with desperation for him.

I love how this Psalm starts, with David visualizing God as a human, maybe a father in the heavens. He’s asking him to bend down to his level, to take notice of him and to not be silent.

Then he vomits his emotions.

He’s poor — without resources or power. He’s needy — needing resources and power. He’s desperate, feels his very life is in danger. It may have been, as David had many enemies, but he is also fighting an internal enemy, his own feelings and emotions, attacking him and his well-being.

What doesn’t make sense to him is because he doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think I personally could say I am “godly,” but I also know, compared to others who have done more overt acts, I appear “godly.”

And there is the assumption that God blesses the godly and punishes the wicked. Yet, there are times when the godly suffer and the wicked prosper. Those are confusing times when we call out, and desire a listening ear.

David begins his initial ask focusing on “Me and You.” I need help; I am godly. He’s in touch with his need, but by the end of the psalm, his perspective begins to shift: “Save your servant, who trusts in you, you are my God.”

It’s as if it begins to dawn on him, it’s not “Me and You” but “You and then Me.”

What is something you feel is unjust, is threatening you, and you need God to listen? Share and I’ll be praying for you.

Psalms 115:2 – Here Is My God

(I thought this was appropriate for the news today…)

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
He does all that he pleases.

After giving all the honor to our Lord, we are asked the question, “Why should the nations, where is their God?”

 Yes, when people ask us where our wealth comes from, how do we answer? Do we explain the good decisions we made? Do we explain our inheritance? Or do we let that wealth reflect the glory of God.

 When times are hard and people ask us why it happened, are we careful to not blame God, as if he couldn’t handle it. Are we afraid that somehow it reflects less his love and faithfulness when times are hard?

Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Maybe it’s because we, I, am not saying, “Here is my God!” He is with me, guiding me, giving me grace in the time of plenty. And He is with me during the hard times, guiding, giving grace.

Maybe I’m not speaking his name, taking the glory or the blame myself, as if I didn’t really believe in the god I claim to worship. Maybe I don’t think think they want to know, or they will ridicule him or me. Why do they have to ask? Why can’t they see and hear it from me?

The explanation for both good and hard times is, “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases.” I don’t why he choose a sinner like me to bless.  I don’t know why he choose a sinner like me to suffer. But he does, having grace in both cases, to see me through.

It’s the grace, it’s the presence of God, I want others to see. 

Then, they won’t have to ask, “Where is your God?”

Let it Go

There is the famous Disney tune, “Let it Go.” We’ve had our own version of that lately with Irma, but even before that I was thinking about the whole area of letting things go. (picture below is Roger, Winston and I riding out the storm)

I’m a little OCD. You can tell by looking at my closet. My clothes are organized into sleeveless tops, long sleeve tops, jackets, dresses and skirts, pants and shorts – in that order. In other words, it’s not totally OCD, but coming close, at least in comparison to others in my circle of friends and family

I’m a little OCD in my calendar. I just spent the last 5 hours working on my calendar, writing emails based on plans, sending appointments. The last two months have been crazy, forming plan A and then B and then — I don’t know what letter we actually landed on!!! Things kept interrupting the plans I try to hold loosely…but which have been meticulously formed. They are like dominos; you change one thing and it has repercussions on others.

I was talking with a few others who are feeling out of control and who want to find some thing they can land on. Houses need new repairs. Boxes need unpacking from a move. Health issues are messing up plans.

And I think of the Lord saying, “Don’t worry about tomorrow…” and try to balance it with Paul’s “make the most of your time.” There is a responsibility of this precious life, and yet, we need to hold it loosely, not become OCD, and, as Disney says,

“Let it go.”

What is it that you are struggling to let go? I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or email me personally.

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.