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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 139’

  

Life carries on …

This was the prevailing thought as I left work today, heavy with the weight of grief in a world that does not cease to spin for anything or anyone.

A colleague for much of the past thirteen years died, after a brief battle with cancer. Though she has been missing from our hallowed halls since before the Christmas break, the finality of death leaves a unexpected shock in its wake. 

We went to sleep last night knowing that our friend and co-worker was experiencing an other-worldly peace that passes understanding, and we awoke today to the everyday battles of work in a high school. 

It wasn’t until the end of the day, when her family were prayed for at a staff meeting, that many of us realized that we had not yet begun to mourn.

And we mourn.

And we know that we will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Late last August our staff reunited and dreamed of a new school year, none of us aware that one would cease to breathe life’s sweet breath before June’s final bell rang.

And so we grieve the death of our friend and colleague, we grieve for her family, but we also mourn for ourselves, as our knowledge in the fragility of life has been flashed before our eyes. We are not guaranteed four score and ten. We are only given right now. 

On her “about” page on her blog (nodroppedstitches)she shared who she knew she was:

“I am the creation spoken about in Psalm 139:13 – 16 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)

Our friend was not expected to live, from the moment she was born. Her health was fragile throughout her life, yet she lived to experience so much of what one might dream for … friendships, marriage, children, grandchildren, further education even up to a year ago and gardening through it all. Doctors through the years had hypothesized her end numerous times … but her days were written before her first breath, by the One who breathed life into her.

As is the same for each one of us.

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“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

As I read the above words I thought of how ‘hounded’ I was feeling that particular day.

Hounded was I by the pressures of relationships, and bills, and work, and making dinner, and seeking the location of just one ibuprofen to take the edge off this pounding headache.

Her words made my eyes fill, and their banks refused to hold the flood back … the dams burst, the water fell.

Later I sought the The Hound of Heaven … the poem I had a vague knowledge of once reading. It was written in the late 1800’s by English writer Francis Thompson. Mr. Thompson had studied to become a priest, then a physician, then lived in terrible poverty (as a writer) where he survived by selling matches. He then suffered with the constant pain of neuralgia, which he treated with laudanum (containing opium), eventually becoming addicted. He last years were spent in a monastery, where he was cared for by friends.

The first link I opened to read the poem, The Hound of Heaven, made the dams burst in another way … tears of joy.

I read the ode, allowing the pursuits to settle on my heart and mind. The pursuits that we make for ‘more’ of this world, and the never-ending pursuit of God for his child.

When I came to the end of the verses, there followed yet more verses … this time written by David …

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

… the words of Psalm 139 … the words I have been hiding in my heart for months, as though ‘I’ had anything to do with it … as though those words were chosen for me, for such a time as this. As though those words were the instrument of the Hound himself. He who is willing to use whatever means possible to draw us back to Him.

“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

 

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When you look at the photos on this page, what do you see?

a. an old piece of junk?

b. a desk that has seen better days?

c. a piece of furniture with no good use?

d. a hidden treasure?

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As my son and I were driving down the road the other day, I noticed this purple monster at the end of someone’s lane-way, placed there as the weekly garbage. I was already braking as I passed, in preparation for my abrupt u-turn just meters down the road.

I pulled into the lane, and smiled broadly at my son, who rolled his eyes, smiled back, and stated, “I figured” as he was opening his door, knowing that his growing biceps would be soon put to use.

A sign declaring ‘FREE’ was on the ground beside it, blown off by the gentle summer breeze.

The desk appeared upon first observation to be structurally sound, terribly dusty, and … purple. I quickly discarded those immediate observations for the ones my imagination was dreaming up … cleaned, freshly painted, and sitting in my loft … a place for me to sit and write, without the warming on my legs from my archaic laptop.

And so, my faithful son assisted me as I lifted it into the back of our van. Then assisted me to remove it from the van once home again.

As of bedtime it has been washed inside and out, sanded, and primed with a delightful ‘gripping’ primer (it grabs to any surface, even without sanding). Tomorrow begins the painting (not purple), and the fulfilling of my dream of the beauty I see under the dust, dirt and purple paint, in my minds eye. Tomorrow I plan to bring the beauty that I know exists, just under the surface, out with the eyes and hands of one who desires to redeem what first appeared as trash, into the treasure that it’s original builder had in mind.

This is how God as the original builder and creator, sees us. He knows fully the beauty, possibility and value that is beneath our selfishness, bruises, scars and sin. And it is He who redeems … cleans, makes new, purifies. It is the blood of His Son, not paint, that covers over the sins of our lives, and makes us as new … as we were always intended to be.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,”
1 Peter 1:3-4

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A few weeks back I wrote in the post Memorizing by Heart, about challenging myself to memorize Psalm 139.

I had no idea how fantastic this self-challenge would be. The more verses I memorized by heart, the more burned into my soul was the richness and depth of the message of them.

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I knew this recently as I stood among the beauty of creation, feeling a lacking in hope in an area of my day. Standing there, beneath the tall trees, hearing the birds chirp and the squirrels chatter, the message of that Psalm started to flow from my lips, as though an ‘on’ switch was pushed automatically.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

How comforting those words, which reminded me how intimately the Creator of these tall trees and carefree creatures knows me.

“You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.”

As those words came to my lips I sensed the communication that He is not just with me, but His presence is like a protective, fatherly embrace.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Even when I feel that I am surrounded by doubt, by discouragement, by darkness, He is the light that I can see in the shadows.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

He has been with me since before Creation, He knows what tomorrow, and every tomorrow after it, holds for me.

” when I awake, I am still with you.”

When the bad dreams, the nightmares of this present day, this season of life that you and I might be going through, and we awake … we will see that He is still with us. He never left our side.

But, before the nightmares end, the words hidden in our hearts can remind us of the promise of His presence … even when our eyes are too consumed by the dark.

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So the speaking engagement is done, I had memorized eighteen of twenty-four verses of Psalm 139, and not one rotten tomato was thrown … I would say it was a success.

After it was over, it was …

SO,

SO,

SO

good to get home on Saturday and have the time to write again! I thought I would go crazy for the past two weeks when I simply utilized guest posts and re-posts for this blog.

As I was preparing last week, I happened to hear someone on the radio talk about character, and who we really are … when no one is looking or listening.

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In the midst of my preparations the one thing that kept coming back to me was not how well I prepared for that speaking engagement. What matters is how I live when no one is looking. God will speak through my brokenness but how well do I speak through it?

I found it hard to pay attention to the trivia of my preparations, because I was pretty certain that whatever God wanted to be communicated would come through my lips no matter what I did to prepare. But how do I speak through my brokenness? What do I communicate, how do I live when there are no eyes on me?

When there are no eyes on me, except those of my Creator, that is who I really am … from the inside out.

Oh, my daughter went to the store and picked up a great dress for me to wear as I spoke, and she loaned me her denim jacket too. I had showered, done my hair, and make-up. I had prepared fully for what I wanted to say, and had my props. I had even asked my the special people in my life to pray.

But, at the end of the day, God already had all of the details covered.

More than that, He knew the status of my heart … the one place of preparation that mattered the most.

The event was good, and I felt personally good about my part, but what was best about it all was this message that kept me in check … that it is who I am, and what I do, when nobody is looking that is of more value to God than what I say and do in front of a crowd.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23-24

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I awoke on Saturday morning, realizing that I am speaking at a women’s conference in exactly four weeks!

The cold sweats, the tummy rumblings, the tension headache all began to surface … reminding me that time is moving along, and my preparations are not moving as fast as the days on the calendar!

I resolved, then and there, that my goal of memorizing the scripture that I would be speaking from (Psalm 139) would simply not happen, and I would need to put aside this lofty goal, so that what I plan to say would be well prepared … ah, instant relief!

And then, I started through my Saturday morning ritual of reading blog posts from others …

Once again, God spoke clearly to me as I read the words of Ann Voskamp (maybe I need to stop reading her posts … just joking 😉 ).

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Ann, author of the bestseller, “One Thousand Gifts,” writes a wonderful daily blog called A Holy Experience. It is worth your time to check it out.

In the post that has convicted me (once again) to continue to work towards memorizing this beautiful passage, Ann creates music with a combination of left-handed piano playing, the value of hiding God’s word in our hearts, and the hard parts of life.

Check out what Ann has to say about, How to get Through Lifes Hard Parts

“Your life doesn’t sing unless you play.”
Ann Voskamp

PSALM 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

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What would you advise? What would you suggest? What would you do?

A young woman discovers she is pregnant.

She works an office job. She makes little money. She does not have a car … or her drivers license.

She still lives at home with her parents. A household where she has witnessed, and experienced, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Her boyfriend, of a few years, asks whose baby it is. He is not planning to stick around!

She is pregnant.

What would you advise her? What would you suggest she do? What would you do, if you were that girl?

Really, what would you advise? What would you do?

The girl has options:
1. abort the pregnancy
2. go to term, and allow the baby to be adopted
3. keep the baby

What would you do? Seriously!

This is not a new, or uncommon situation. It is one that has directly affected the lives of many women, through all generations. It is not an easy situation. It is not a comfortable one.

Now, seriously, what would you advise? What would you do?

I will tell you what this young woman did …

She continued the pregnancy, and delivered a healthy baby girl. She kept the child. She, and her child, continued to live in her parents home until she met and married a man who proposed to her, and asked to adopt her child simultaneously. The child grew, and was joined by two brothers (who were royal pains in the … neck). She grew up, married, had three children, had friends, and hobbies, and a job she loves. She found her Creator through the faith and life of her grandmother. She has not had a flawless, perfect life, but she has had … life.

Today, forty-three years later, I celebrate my birthday. In real terms, I celebrate my meaningful life, because my mother made a tough decision, without any knowledge of how this decision was going to play out.

Even as I contemplate the circumstances through which she made her decision, and even though I am thankful for the life she chose to give me, I do not know that I would advise or counsel another woman to do the same. Her circumstances would make the decision to continue the pregnancy and to keep her child so … unwise.

Whether or not my mother acknowledged this at the time or not, we do not know the future, and we do not know the purpose in pain, or the value in struggle. Only our Creator knows why the DNA of two people came together to form a new being, a new life.

My life has not been flawless, or perfect. It has not been without pain, or struggle, or heartache. I have not lived a life without regrets, or sins. I have felt hurt, and pain, and not understood why bad things have happened in my life.

But, I have had … life.

And I have my mother and the strength that she possessed when she decided to continue her pregnancy to term, give birth to and raise me.

Thanks mom, for giving me a happy birthday.

Now, what would you have done?

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you. ”
Psalm 139:13-18

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