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



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…

Psalm 96:4-6 Why Do We Sing?

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;

He is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,

But the LORD made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him;

Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of idols and no matter how many sermons I hear, I can’t wrap my head around it. I’m not a Buddhist nor have I ever been tempted to put my trust in good luck charms. I’m sure it is connected to the way I was raised which would be different in another culture.

However, I do know I’m tempted to put my trust, and sometimes my praise, on things other than God. When I have a financial need, I figure out how to access some money. If I don’t have money, I use my energy or intelligence to earn some money. If I have a health issue, I look to medicine. If I have an emotional issue, I look to family and friends or a counselor.

Heathens bow down to a stone idol that represents prosperity or family or health. I don’t have a stone representation of the things I put my trust in other than God, but that doesn’t mean I don’t.

Sometimes God feels far away, and I want a power source closer to me, or to use my own power. So…I turn to idols.

It’s been a miracle how long I have lived with incurable cancer. A few years back, the average time one lived after a BMT (bone marrow/stem cell transplant) without a relapse was 3.5 years; mine was over 7 years. Average life span was 7.5 years; I’m 12 and counting.

I take nutritional supplements, graciously given to me by a friend. At one point, she wanted me to come on her radio program and talk about the supplements and how they have extended my life. I prayed about it, but didn’t have peace. It felt like, to give the supplements credit for the extension of my life, would be discounting God’s grace. I couldn’t do it.

It’s so easy to look to what we see or who we see and give them credit for God’s grace. They have been the instrument from whom God’s grace was extended, but He is the giver of grace.

To him goes all glory and praise.

How has God extended grace in your life that you have been tempted to credit to others? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Psalm 96: 1-3 – Sing to the Lord

Sing to the LORD a new song;

Sing to the LORD, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless his name;

Tell of his salvation day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

His marvelous works among all the peoples!

Ever notice how worship services usually begin with singing? I wonder if that deep tradition comes from this Psalm as it burst forth with song?

Three times it says, “Sing to the Lord.”

Why god wants our songs, I’m not sure. But music is magical, both to the singer and to the hearer. It combines creativity, beauty, information and emotion all in one package. It is spontaneous, yet calculated.

And even if you question the beauty as you listen to yourself sing, whatever comes out is from deep inside, from your very breath, breath and life given by God. It projects what is silent, hidden, through vocal chords that make it audible, understandable, and yes, beautiful.

We sing a “new song,” not just a remake of an old one. What God creates within us is totally new, with potential and opportunity, to do good when we, in our own power, could not.

And notice, we sing “to the Lord,” not to the congregation or those around us. We have an audience of very simply, one.

So, what do we sing about?

We bless his name. His name(s) represent who he is and how he presents himself to us. It speaks of our intimacy in that he is not a “force,” but a personality who feels and is able to respond with pleasure.

We tell of his salvation, eternally in the future, as well as day by day. He saves us from eternal damnation, but more than that, he saves us moment by moment, now, here on earth, by his presence with us in the midst of trials and sufferings.

We declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! At this point, we are his representatives, giving voice to his actions. Our scope is anyone who will listen, around the world. We are helping others to recognize that the sun that shines and the gift of life is not happenstance or an act of nature, but stem from the very nature of God.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a comment — What is your favorite song and why?

 

 

 

 

Psalm 11 – Mercy and Justice

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the works of the LORD,

studied by all who delight in them.

Full of splendor and majesty is his work,

and his righteousness endures forever.

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and merciful.

He provides food for those who fear him;

he remembers his covenant forever.

He has shown his people the power of his works,

in giving them the inheritance of the nations

The works of his hands are faithful and just;

all his precepts are trustworthy;

They are established forever and ever,

to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.

He sent redemption to his people;

he has commanded his covenant forever.

Holy and awesome is his name!

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

all who practice it have a good understanding,

his praise endures forever!

Another Psalm with amazing, hidden surprises and familiar verses! But the verses become even more rich when seen in context.

This morning, my mind focused on two phrases: “the LORD is gracious and merciful” and “the works of his hands are faithful and just.”

What does it mean for God to be gracious and merciful?

How are his hands faithful and just?

As this Psalm says, he is gracious and merciful by:

  • Providing food — as Christians, we used to have the habit of praying before meals, thanking God for our food. Just like Israelites, we have become more self-sufficient, removed from our food source, feeling like we earned the money and bought food ourselves. We’ve lost the fear of being plagued by famine or blessing of rains. God graciously and mercifully has placed us individually in a location of plenty.
  • Remembering his covenant forever — He never forgets his covenant of eternal salvation, his promise of endless days for us in his presence. We may wander here on earth because of sin, but if we accept his salvation, we will know his presence forever; not because we have earned it, but because of his grace and mercy.
  • Showing the power of his works — Not only do we have eternal salvation after death, we also have salvation in the midst of life on earth. We have the ability to call on his name and see his power. Nations rise and fall. We personally experience healings, emotionally and physically. We have his presence in our lives, a miracle in itself. Most of all, we have God working within us, changing us from the inside out, causing new desires that amaze us and others.
  • Giving the inheritance of the nations — In speaking to Israel, God gave them international power. The US has been similarly blessed. Although we don’t capture land, we have influence we use to help nations be independent. We enjoy respect around the world. Democracy is sought after by almost all people. Economies rise and fall with Wall Street. It’s a great blessing, as well as responsibility. Because of sin in our nation, it’s only because of his grace and mercy we sit in such high standing.

So what are the works of his hands? How is he faithful and just?

  • First, we can take him at his word. He means what he says. His words are not to be taken lightly. We have the tendency to focus on the negative because of fear, the things I would be judged on because he is just. But he is also faithful in his love and mercy. The key is finding the balance.
  • His word is “established forever” — it doesn’t change with the times. I hear of so many kids who want to throw over the faith of their parents because of all the new things they are learning about life, independence, and the power they feel with self-determination. But you know what? Many come back to their faith. They realize with maturity and wisdom that the principles remain true and the power to live the principles are in one place — the triune God. Nations will rise and fall, cultures will change, but God’s word, and the truths that are in it, will remain for eternity. Years ago someone told me only 3 things are eternal: God, His Word, and the souls of men.
  • Performed with faithfulness and uprightness — God’s word is not just to be heard, but performed. That’s us folks! God’s word is faithful and just, but it is just words without being lived out in flesh. We are called to be faithful and just as we use God’s word in our own lives, modeling what that looks like to others.

The Psalm ends with , “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who practice it have a good understanding, his praise endures forever!”

How do we gain wisdom and understanding? It’s by reflecting, although sometimes dimly, the image of God.

We know God is gracious and merciful. How am I gracious and merciful?

We know his hands are faithful and just. How do I balance faithfulness and justice in my life?

Psalm 109 – Really Mad

Ever been really, really mad. Circumstances or people were just not cooperating. Explosion is all you’re feeling. Bad words come to mind. Bad actions.

I’ve been there, just fuming, pissed off as some would say.

And so was David, which makes me feel so good! (I’m sorry, David, to rejoice in your weakness!) A “man after God’s own heart” had problems with anger. But because he was a godly man, he also shows me how to resolve it in a way I can relate.

Verse 1 begs, “Be not silent, O God of my praise!” I couldn’t help but think that God was silent because he knows David wants to do all the talking/shouting. David’s really not actually talking to God, but at God. He spews for 20 verses of what he thinks about the person/circumstances and what God needs to do about it.

He starts by giving the guts of the situation: someone(s) is lying about him, defaming him, betraying him. It hurts.

Then he expresses his wish list of what should happen to the person. It’s filled with “let him” and “may he” and what follows one isn’t pretty. His curses extend not only to the person who betrayed him, but the wife and children. David wants them all punished and damned eternally.

Then he calms down just a little bit, just like we do, after a rant. The focus switches from what he wants to happen to that person to his own feelings, how deeply it hurt. I do that when I’m ranting, and it’s good for me to get in touch with what’s happening inside of myself. Sometimes it results in more ranting (verses 19 & 20 revert back to the “may”) but I do get closer to a more centered feeling.

Verse 21 is the breakthrough. In the midst of ranting, he knows the only person who can fix it, the person he came to in verse 1, but couldn’t be quiet long enough to listen. I always look for the “but” in Psalms. It tells me a change is coming, a new way of thinking.

God is the only one who can fix it.

Why would he fix it?

Because of his steadfast love for David. Because he is powerful enough to fix it.

Humbled, David sounds very different in next verses. He’s needy; his heart is stricken. He’s honest about his feelings, his desperation. He can hardly stand in the midst of his feelings.

He cries out for help, and asks for his salvation. He can’t resist still telling God what to do, but it’s more reasonable now, wrapped in who God is. It’s focused on God having revenge for his honor, not David having revenge for David’s honor.

And David ends giving thanks to God, because of the assurance he now feels. He’s let it all out, even sinned himself, expressing his hate for his betrayer. But God can take it. He loves us with his steadfast love, good, bad and ugly.

And God is still the same. He will do what he feels is right in the situation. Even if someone is cursing us, God’s blessing is bigger than the curse.

We don’t know what happened after David wrote this Psalm, but in my “holy” imagination, I picture him getting up off of his knees, looking around at his tent, strapping on his armor and going out and doing what needed to be done that day.

When God and I fight through my anger and I’m done ranting and return to him, I can do the same. I strap on my spiritual armor and become obedient. When I began my rant, I couldn’t do anything as upset as I was. But now, I can…

Because of his steadfast love.

I’d love to hear from you — how do you work your way through anger? Feel free to comment!

Psalm 113 Just Answer the Question!

Who is like the Lord our God

Who is seated on high,

Who looks far down

On the heavens and the earth?

Sometimes I read scripture and it seems so easy. Sometimes it’s hard. This is one of those passages that only took seconds, nano seconds, to reach into my heart. Life, all I’m going through at the moment, all boils down to one simple question:

Who is like the LORD our God?

From my perspective, life can be a mess. I’m just one person in a messed up world. I can’t control my president, or foreign nations, or even my bank account. I can’t change how life ebbs and flows. This last year I’ve learned once again, I can’t control life and death.

But from God’s perspective, it’s totally different. I’m sure he looks down and sees that life is a mess. There are billions of people living in this messed up world, and he sees each one of them. He gives them free choice to mess it up even more. He even gives my president free choice to listen to him or make his own decisions. He watches us as life ebbs and flows, to see if we will turn to him in good times and bad, enjoying life, grieving death.

He is God, and he controls anything he desires. He controls the moon and the stars, the waves, and people. But he has set us all here with the freedom to make choices, the most important one, the choice to choose to worship him.

It all looks different from his perspective, from his character. He’s a god of love and wants nothing more than people to respond to him. He’s a god of justice who uses circumstances to show us our need for him. He’s a god of righteousness who cannot, will not, have sin in his eternal kingdom. He’s a god of mercy, who know how much we can take and how deeply we need forgiveness

As he looks down at me, at my life, I wonder what he sees?

Recently I watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean – stunning! I wonder what it looked like from his direction, as he painted it over the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans, as it stretched around the world. It’s a different perspective.

It’s a simple question, who is like our God?