Pray for Peace – Psalm 122

There’s a Twitter battle going on this morning about how much God was referenced at the RNC last night, that we are not the “promised land” and verses used in the Bible should not be applied. I try to stay away from political conversations which divide or manipulate and realize I may be heading into dangerous territory here, but Psalm 122 says:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

In my margin, I had written next to Jerusalem, “home country.”

What is wrong with praying for the peace of your nation, whatever your nation is? It’s not praying for a political party to win, or a type of government, or even one value system to prevail. It’s for the individuals to not be torn up with war, hate, divisiveness, death and devastation that comes with violence and war. 

And it doesn’t say how we will get to peace. Sometimes, in Bible history, the Israelites had to go through war in order to get to peace.  Some had to stand up against the government ruling them, risking their lives. Sometimes it was through treaties. We are encouraged to “seek justice” in the Bible. Why can’t we seek peace through justice? Or justice through peace?

For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

I guess I’m convicted this morning to make this my prayer: 

“For my brothers and companions’ sake, I say, ‘Peace be within you!’ And for myself, I pray the same. Whatever is taking us over the top of disagreement, whatever is taking us to the place we no longer respect others, whatever is grinding inside us that wants to take control over others, release it, Lord, I pray. I ask for us to find peace together, recognizing wrongs, repenting with a desire to change, and forgiving ourselves and others. I pray this for all political parties and individuals that we would let go of our pride and selfishness, no matter how we try to justify it.

“Lord, I pray that we seek your goodness on this earth. Humble us. Break us so that we can pray ‘your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are such a poor reflection of your goodness. We will never have perfection here on earth, in our city, in our home country. But we do pray for your peace, within us, as well as the courage to seek peace.”


Hate Yourself? Psalm 120

Ever wish you knew the context of a Psalm? Psalm 120 is fascinating, and I can’t help but wonder what motivated it…

In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, for a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrow, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Obviously, the Psalmist was not happy with himself. He is calling out to his God to save him from a part of himself, a part of his body, driven by thoughts within his spirit. 

He has a deceitful tongue. Deceit is defined as “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” Not only has the Psalmist said something hurtful, he has twisted the truth so that someone else believed something untruthful. It’s gone from saying words to resulting in actions.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is the childhood taunt. The deceitful tongue says words that turn into “sticks and stones” that break bones. 

This doesn’t sound like a onetime offense.  It has become a part of the character of this person’s tongue, part of its name. And it’s so powerful, it is associated with war, warriors, arrows and fire. No wonder he’s calling for help from the Lord – this is dangerous stuff!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Mesheck, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.

 I’m not sure where the places are, but he doesn’t sound as if he is at home, where he once knew how to control his tongue, before it became so deceitful. He’s around influences saying something very different than what he believes. I think who we hang out with, the circumstances of our lives, does affect our vocabulary, even our motivations.

There was news report a few minutes ago about a brutal attack where a man was kicked in the head. Some may consider me naïve, but I like to believe the best of people, that the kicker didn’t leave his house thinking, “I wonder who I can kick unconscious?” But there was something about that crowd that made him think it was acceptable.

The Psalmist’s aw-ha is in the last sentence, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” First, he defines what his heart really wants, with no deception. He wants peace. Second, he defines the problem, that no matter what he says, others are looking for a fight.

He’s got a hard, hard choice to make. Does he continue with a deceitful tongue, manipulating the situation or his words to be accepted and maybe change the circumstances? Or does he say his heart’s desire?

What if the man who kicked the victim had said, “this isn’t me? This isn’t who I am.  I don’t want to do this,” and walked away? 

We may not be on the edge of war, but we face similar issues – do we express our hearts or say what others will agree with? Do we speak plainly so others see a choice or do we try to manipulate situations to get our way? 

Let’s cry out to the Lord, confessing deceitful tongues and asking for new ones who will praise God’s name. 

How Long? Psalm 13

A friend brought my attention back to Psalm 13 the other day. It’s her favorite as she struggles with a reoccurring cancer. But you don’t need cancer to wonder “how long?” in your life.

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
And have sorrow in my heart all day?
How long shall me enemy be exalted over me?

There are times when it just feels as if it has been a long time since God has been involved in our lives. Often, it’s because of something happened that separated ourselves from him. It might be a sin that hardened our hearts, or it just could be busyness with good things which replace being with him. Like a good friend, sometimes the relationship just slips away with time and distance…

And then we miss them. 

We miss him.

And it’s easy to blame the other person, or to blame God. He’s forgotten us, hidden himself from us. Almost more than him, we miss the blessings which came from the relationship. We should be safe and prosperous, and if we aren’t, it must be God’s fault.

But…we need to look for the “but.”

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
Because he has dealt bountifully with me.

When we turn our face towards the Lord and who he is, our attitude completely changes. It’s about the relationship we have, not what we think we are missing. I have friends who through time and distance feel far. Yet I know the feelings are still rich between us and, in a moment’s notice, their heart would be next to mine. Busyness and distance may have gotten in the way, but they are there for me and love me. 

And so it is with the Lord, just in perfection. We may not be feeling his blessing, but it’s there. We may not be feeling his presence, but he’s there. We may feel others are getting further in life than we are, but we have what really counts – the love of the Lord.

How long?

We may be wondering, How long until Covid is over? God may feel far in the midst of racial injustice and cities burning and election politics. We grow impatient. We wonder, How long until my business is back? Until my money runs out? Until I find a job? Until I meet my soulmate? Until my cancer is healed? Until there is justice?

The list goes on…with silence from God concerning the timing. Instead, he answers us with his presence if we turn away from the problems and seek him.

The question is, Can we see what we have instead of what we want? Can we trust in him and his love? Can we see the bounty all around us?

Response – Psalm 116

So what is our response to God in our lives, giving us by his mercy the ability to breathe, to love, to long? What is our response to a God who has provided a way of salvation and freedom from our sins? 

What is our response to a God who considers being with us as “precious?”

O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.

I offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
And call on the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
In our midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

For myself, I cannot help but bow in submission, in humility, for what he has done in my life. I’m still trying to wrap my head around his love, and I’m sure I never will. He has loosed my bonds to sin, creating in me a new person. I owe him my self, my being, and as a person redeemed, I owe him my service.

I think of Psalm 123:2 – Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He is gracious to us.

I also offer thanksgiving and faithfulness. I think of being faithful to my integrity, the things I feel deeply about that make me who I am and connect me with who God made me.  

And I think of doing it publicly. I know a lot of people think “religion” is personal. They are afraid of the “show” or hypocrisy. Maybe they are afraid of being judged by others as too religious or not enough. But this isn’t a competition, and there should not be judging. Each person stands on their own before God. He is the one who sees Christ within us. 

I feel it is important to go public with our faith. We are the “witness” others see God. I’m past the point of speaking in public, so my little blog is my public platform. It gets my faith from secret thoughts to where it belongs, on the forum of the world. I think of the childhood song, This Little Light of Mine, and it’s empathic, “Hide it under a bushel? No!”

So I’m going to say the words God gives me until that “precious” moment in his sight.

In the meantime, keep reading…

Precious – Psalm 116

Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of his saints.

What a mystery! How can death be “precious?”

But somehow it is. I claim this verse at funerals. I can’t say I understand it, but I claim it.

In God’s perspective, the moment of separation for us from our loved one that hurts so much, is the moment of sweet reunion for God.

After all, he created us to be in fellowship with him, walking in the garden, created in his image, being a part of himself and his joyous creation. But that was ruined by sin, and ever since then, has put us in two worlds. 

Jesus unites us by giving us the Holy Spirit, our comforter. But there is still continual sin we contend with daily. We will not be one with God, able to truly walk with him in freedom and light, until we shed this earthly body.

But dying means separation from mankind, from friends and family, from all we have known here on earth. It means letting go of the only community we know, the only love we know, flawed as it might be. It means letting go of our life work, our passions, our possessions, of what remains undone. It means letting go of what we have done right and wrong, with no ability to improve or correct.

Dying, from a human side, is awful. There is no hope. No redemption. Game over.

Dying from a spiritual side is amazing, mystifying… 

All sin is removed as far as the East from the West. No more separation from God, our creator. No more pain or tears or fear. Freedom like Adam had in the Garden of Eden. Such close fellowship with the Godhead, three in one, that we will never long for the idols, the imitations, we made in human life.

That’s from our side, but think of his… since creation, since your creation, God has been longing for you to come home to him. He’s walked with you daily. He’s seen your successes and failures.  In his grace, he’s given you strength to fulfill passions, and in his discipline, he’s given you correction when you needed it. All of it was with the day in mind he knew was coming, planned so carefully, so purposefully, when he would hold you in his arms as one of his sheep, that he was there for you every minute of your life.

And on that day, in the midst of that reunion, he calls it “precious.”

I can’t help but think of a new father holding his baby for the first time. Precious. Unbelievable. Full of awe. So many emotions. What was separated is together, with a future of life together. The pain is over; there is new life. What was created and hidden is now with its maker. It is “right” but more than right, it is “precious.” 

God considers, God feels, the moment of my reunion with him as “precious.”

Mercy – Psalms 116

Years ago I wrote a poem about the “edge” of death, literally, in my cancer journey. Psalm 116 has been a mainstay in my perspective and echos the Psalmist feelings as he peers over the edge and as I continue to cry out to the Lord..

I love the LORD, because he has heard
My voice and pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
Therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

I have a perspective on life I did not have before the cancer journey. Why he would be sparing me and not others, I don’t understand. It is pure mercy.

And because of that mercy, I know each day, each week, each month, each year is a gift for me to give back to him.

The snares of death emcompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!”

 Let me say, this journey has not been a walk in the park. I suffer physical pain, especially with each broken bone and/or surgery. And the emotional side of wondering if each holiday, each visit with family and friends, is difficult. It’s even harder with each sin, wrongdoing, that injures myself or others. So I call on the Lord to free my soul so that I can live rightly in the health and freedom he has given me for today. Because…

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Our God is merciful.
When I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

I don’t know why I am here when so many others have gone before me. I can only believe it’s because of his mercy, his vision for my life. It’s certainly not because I deserve more than others, am more talented, am more valuable. I am the “simple” who has been brought low. And my rest, my only rest, is in him.

For you have delivered my soul from death, 
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

The chapter goes on, which may be for another day, but I can’t help but camp on the last statement as my mantra. Each time he gives me a new day, each time he delivers me from what is to come, from pain, from fear, I claim from him the strength to…

Walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

Today – Psalm 95

For he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture
and the sheep of his hand.

if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on the at Massah in the wilderness. (7-8)

What a contrast! Sheep munching in pasture or hard hearts wandering in a wilderness.

We have a choice to make.

It’s not “if” he is God – he is God. We can claim science and believe theories, but that does not negate his existence. 

And it’s not “if” he is only the God of the universe – he is our God. He created us with a God awareness, a spirit, other animals do not have. He created us in his image.

And it’s not “if” we are the people of his pasture. He created earth, a beautiful pasture, for us to live in. It wasn’t our choice to be born on earth. He choose us and set us in an amazing location that fits our needs, our desires.

And it’s not “if” we are the his sheep, of his hand. He not only placed us here, but he holds us here. It’s so very personal. His hand guides, touches us, caresses us, protects us, is all around us.

The choice is “today.”

Today, how am I going to respond to his presence, to what he has given us, where he has placed us, is holding us in his personal and tender presence?

Today, if I hear his voice, how am I going to respond? When I see nature, the ruby red tomato on my tomato plant, am I going to take credit for its brilliance? Am I going to say it got here by evolution?

Today, am I going to harden my heart to the possibility that there is a God? Am I going to harden my heart and refuse to believe he is a personal God? 

The writer of Hebrews pondered the same questions of “Today,” repeating it 3 times (3:7, 15, 4:7). He wanted to make it clear that we have a choice on how we live. And if we don’t respond to all God is and gives to us, we will wander in our minds, hearts and spirits. We will not enter into the state of rest God desires for us.

I need rest from my own wanderings…

Legacy – Psalm 90

Another word I listen for in reading Psalms is “generations.” Maybe it’s because of my cancer, but women especially have a sense of building character and truth into their children, trusting that goodness, godliness, will go on through their lives.

But men also have a sense of legacy. Often it is in the area of providing for their family. They desire to build empires, or at least possessions, an inheritance to give to their children. They desire to teach their children how to provide for themselves and their families, how to be successful.

Psalms 90 starts out with…

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Days come and days go, each one building on the last, each one uniquely its own. But the Lord is consistent in his character each day. He is our dwelling place, the place we come home to, rest in, rely on. He’s not just home for us, but for all our generations.

I think that’s important to teach our children, that God isn’t who we visit on Sundays, but God is who we rest in daily. 

God is home.

I remember when one of our children wandered from the Lord. They wanted to figure out for themselves where they wanted to place their faith. When we would get together for lunch occasionally, I would ask, “How are you and the Lord doing?”

After months of “Oh, Mom…” replies and getting pushed away, I was surprised one day with a “I really miss him…”

He was missed as a dwelling place, a home, where there was rest, rejuvenation, strength.

Anyway, that was a rabbit trail – what I really wanted to talk about is the last verse…

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!

There is longing in all of us that what we do will last beyond ourselves; that all the mothering we do will go on in our children’s character; that the firm financial base we build will not be wasted.

So much of what we do doesn’t last. The dishes get dirty. Bills come due. We work and then do it again the next day. Stock markets come and go. Cars break down. People die.

The hope of life is that something will last; something will matter. Maybe it will be our reputation others will remember. Maybe it will be memories our grandchildren have. Maybe it will be something we have written. Maybe it will be something we handmade, or something our children were able to buy, because we gave it to them. 

We’re powerless to make things endure. We are powerless to influence how people remember us once we are gone. 

We only have today.

So we pray to the Lord to make this day meaningful, memorable, to truly “establish the work of our hands.”

A Timeless Question – Psalm 82

Over and over again, I remember David asking God why he seems to be blessing the unjust. But in Psalm 82, I saw a twist I’ve never seen before.

God asks us why we judge unjustly…

“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?”

Wow.  In the midst of these turbulent times, it’s quite an indictment. Are we showing partiality? Why? What motivates us? How are we showing partiality? Do we judge unjustly?

He then describes to us a way out…

“Give justice to the weak and fatherless; 
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 
Rescue the weak and the needy; 
deliver them from the hand of wicked.”

I’ve avoided topics around racial tensions in the US, but this hit me as a slap in the face. It’s not a political issue. It’s a compassion issue. Even more, it’s a justice issue.

Do we dominate poorer communities because they are weaker? Are there “wicked people” who get their strength from overpowering others? Is there a people, a race, who has been afflicted and destitute of their rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Are they being taken advantage of for personal gain?  

Have I contributed to this injustice? 

What is my responsibility to give justice?

So many questions come out of one pure, timeless, question. Asked over and over again through the centuries. Through every culture. Because every culture has been the same, and it hurts the heart of God. 

 How am I going to respond? What are my answers? What is God asking me to do?

I wish I had more answers. Right now I don’t. I will listen, continue to listen, to God and to others. And I trust God will show me, will show us, what heart change that is needed and what actions need to follow.

Pray with me. 

I Am Excited! Psalm 72

There have been times when I have questioned the emotions of God – does he feel or is he emotionless, something like “the force” in Star Wars?

When I am reading scripture and come across a question, I mark a “Q” in the margin. Bob Tiede, a friend of ours, talks about “leading with questions” and I’m always fascinated with how Jesus and God’s word often asks questions so that we discover his character. 

Reading through Psalms, I decided to also mark exclamations marks. In a world where we are reprimanded for using them too much on social media and text, they are used all over in Psalms. For example, in Psalm 70, every sentence, every line is marked with an exclamation! 

In Psalm 72, all of the lines are exclamations, except for verses 12-14.

For he delivers the needy when he calls, 
the poor and him who has no helper. 
He has pity on the weak and the needy, 
and saves the lives of the needy. 
From the oppression and violence he redeems their life,
 and precious is their blood in his sight. 

In the midst of all of David’s excitement about the Lord, all his power, his might, he changes tone when talking about God’s love and compassion for the needy. It’s as if he looks down from the stars, through all of his amazing creation, and sees…me.

It’s not that he isn’t excited about me. But all that pent up power, all that majesty, would simply be too much for me to bear. Instead, he comes gently, like a shepherd, like the “good shepherd” Jesus, picking me up out of the “oppression and violence” of this world and redeems my life…and even calls me precious.


And I can get really, really, really excited about that!!!

How about you? Remember when he picked you up and called you precious?