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



Advent Series: How the Birth of Jesus Impacted…Joseph – Matt 1:18-19

Our church is starting an Advent series about how the birth of Jesus impacted different people. This week is on Joseph, so I thought I’d get a head start on reading, thinking, visualizing the scenario for myself.

 Now the birth of Jesus took place in this way.

Matthew decided to start his story not with Mary, but with Joseph. Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy is a pivotal point.  Jesus had to have a human father in order to be a son of David.

When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

The facts: Mary is pregnant; Joseph knows it’s not his; they are engaged but not married; she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. As incredible as the last one is, it is mentioned with the others. Joseph knew the facts, at least as they were told to him. I would have like to have been an ant on the wall during that conversation!

And here comes his character…

And her husband Joseph, being a just and unwilling to put her to share, resolved to divorce her quietly.

It’s a little confusing, but he was considered her husband while they were engaged. I’m not a scholar and not sure what this looked like, but her unexplained pregnancy seems to be akin to adultery.

But Joseph believed her story, that it was not adultery. He wasn’t completely sure what it was and he wasn’t sure what his part would be.

So he turned to social convention. What do you do in a case like this? Obviously, it had never happened before. He wanted to do the right thing, but wasn’t sure what that was?

And after all, God hadn’t talked to him yet. He still loves Mary. He’s just so he knows something needs to happen. But he wants to do justice in the most loving way possible.

There is a tension between justice and love.

Lord, help me to temper my own need for justice with love. Help me to wrestle with what that means in my own life, in my relationships. Amen.

(More on Wednesday…)

Psalm 86:16-17 – You and Me – The Final Requests

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

Give your strength to your servant,

And save the son of your maidservant.

 Show me a sign of your favor,

That those who hate me may see and be put to shame,

Because you, Lord, have helped me

And comforted me.

New and improved by the end of the Psalm, the tone is very different. Gone is the struggle. Nothing is actually different, other than David and his perspective.

He asks for grace, strength, and salvation, but he is no longer flailing. He’s resting in the peace of who God is.

And he asks for a sign of God’s favor. Actually, I think he already has it — it’s the miracle that he now has peace in the midst of his circumstances.

But I do relate to his request. I often want something “little” in the midst of the “big” to remind my feeble faith that God is with me and is working. It might be a parking space at the hospital, words from a kind nurse, or a note in the mail — a little something that gives me a hug from God and reminds me that…

Salvation will come, either in life or in death.

Because…

“You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”

Amen.

What “little” is helping you, comforting you, in the midst of your “big?” Share with us and we’ll be praying for you.

Psalm 86:14-15 You and Me – Circumstances

O God, insolent men have risen up against me;

A band of ruthless men seeks my life,

And they do not set you before them

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

Slow to anger and abounding steadfast love and faithfulness

Finally, now that the perspective is where it needs to be, we get to the specifics: insolent men have risen against David and seek his life. David was chased first by Saul, and later chassed by his son and others who wanted his throne, his power.

But David nows sees the bigger picture —it’s not just his life he fears will be taken. He knows God placed him in this position of authority, and a take-over would have spiritual and physical implications for a nation.

And, he sees a bigger picture yet — that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Even if David is over-taken, God will still love, have grace and mercy, and be faithful to his nation.

David sees his circumstances in light of the enormous capacity of his Savior.

Yes, they are still his circumstances. But he lets it rest in the arms of the all-knowing, all-powerful, God.

How does the bigger picture help you in the midst of your circumstances?

 

Psalm 86:11-13 You and Me – Request #2

Teach me your way, O Lord,

That I may walk in your truth;

Unite my heart to fear your name.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God,

With my whole heart,

And will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Thinking back, David’s first request was for grace. It seems that God gave it to him in the midst of the prayer — grace to get a glimpse of God and to put things into perspective.

His second request is not to be delivered; it’s to be taught.

Here he is the king, who began the Psalm saying he was “godly,” humbling himself, asking to be taught. What a contrast!

He desires to know truth — truth about himself, truth about the circumstances, truth about God.

And with it, he knows he needs a united heart to fear god’s name. His heart cannot be divided. If I’m trusting in God and in electing the leader of my country (or despair if they are not elected), then my heart is divided. I can’t trust two things at once.

In contrast to the fear David exhibited in the first few verses, now he “gives thanks….with his whole heart.”

Why? Because he’s feeling God’s steadfast love. It reminds me of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Right before Paul urges them “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (the “to-do/not to do” list), he prays that they would know God’s love. Before David could know what to do/not to do, he needed to grasp God’s love.

God’s love delivers us from the depths of Sheol. Circumstances initially put us there; trying to solve it ourselves digs even deeper. Love is sweet release. Love is hope.

Just like David, when I grasp the depths of God’s love from me, I can pick up myself again, brush off the dirt of doubt, and step into the light.

How does knowing “truth” help in the midst of confusing circumstances? What truths are helpful to you?

Psalm 86:8-10 You and Me – Focus on You

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

Nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

And worship before you, O Lord,

And shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;

You alone are God.

The focus that has been shifting gradually now becomes laser. It’s not about me; it’s about him.

It’s about who he is and what he does. There is none like him in my life. The other things I put my trust and time into (finances, hobbies, work, etc.) pale alongside him…in fact, they disappear. They are no longer important. So we’re short on our paycheck? What does that compare to the God of the universe who controls all the money in the world?

And there is nothing that can do for me what he does. He has literally saved my life from the depths of depression. He is saving my life from sin. He is providing food, clothing, health, joy — the list could go on forever!

All the nations join me in bowing down before him. There’s no fear in who is going to win the final battle. Yes, there are losses in this world, and real reasons to fear if we’re depending on the government or anything else to keep us safe. But in the end, all will bow and glorify his name!

He is great and he does wondrous things, because he alone is god. Not just my god, but the god of the universe and all nature. Whatever I have set up next to him, needs to go.

Somehow there is peace in knowing that it’s not just me that is powerless. Everything else is powerless compared to the power of god.

Instead of fear, I find peace.

What does that kind of peace look like in your life? What fear has been replaced with peace? 

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.