Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Exalted? Me?



Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27: 6

I've never been good at taking compliments (trust me, I'm worse at taking criticism...but that one is for another day).  With compliments...I just don't know what to do...I usually dismiss them and say something like, "O you are way too kind."  Basically, that phrase really means: "listen, I know me.  I totally suck at everything. You just witnessed how God likes to use the most imperfect and undeserving people to do His work...and sometimes, for some unexplainable reason, He decides it is my turn...but I do not deserve any iota of exaltation...so please don't."

Anyway...needless to say, these thoughts started bouncing in my mind when I read the first few words of verse 6 in Psalm 27:  "Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;" and I'm thinking..."my head will be exalted?" I don't see that...how...why?

Who am I?

Then I remember...exactly...who am I to question God's divine design for us.  It is He who decides and it is His providence what opens the pathways for us to walk through...not by our merits, qualities and deserving nature, but by His perfect plan and love.  He knows what He does and He has known it way before I was even a thought in my parent's head.  He is the One who, for reasons only He knows and are not right for me to second guess, set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace (Galatians 1: 15). It was His eyes that saw my unformed substance; and He who wrote in His book every one of my days, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139: 16). It was Christ who didn't wait for me to get my act together and become holy and deserving before He died for me.  He took the cross upon Himself and sacrificed for me while I was still a sinner...(Romans 5: 8)

So...I think the lesson here is not to focus on me.  It is not about me and whether or not I am deserving of God's amazing grace.  It is about Him and how my reaction to His gift of mercy should be to dwell at his sacred tent, and sacrifice with shouts of joy.

He is worthy of all of honor and glory and praise.  So, rather than questioning whether I should be exalted or not, I need to sing and make music to the Lord!  Now...about my lack of singing abilities...

Thank you, Lord for Your Goodness and for Your unmeasurable Love.  I humbly receive it and give you Praises and Thanksgiving in the All Powerful and Worthy Name of the Lamb.  Amen!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Roadside Assistance



For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock. Psalm 27: 5

In our recent trip to Panama, we rented a car for the week so we could leave the city and drive the 4+ hour-road to my hometown and have a car there for our transportation needs.  Driving in Panama is such a hazzle.  Traffic is unbearable, rules are often not obeyed, and road conditions are not super safe.  Needless to say it makes me very nervous to drive there so I don't.  Dan does all the driving when we are in Panama.  Yes, he is the visitor, but he is a very good driver and handles the road much better than me.  That makes him overconfident and hesitant to want to pay for extra protections when we rent the car.  This time, however, he didn't argue and we got a good package that included all kinds of insurance.  Included in the packet was also a number for road-side assistance.  I didn't ponder much on it, but I tucked away the knowledge that we had it just in case.

Thinking of this brought to mind thoughts of the road...

The road has been an common analogy for life.  Countless thinkers, writers, poets, singers, preachers, prophets have used the road to explain the ideas of what happens while we are on this side of eternity.  The bumps on the road, the turns and twists, the detours, the loss of direction, even new ones like satellite technology and the infamous GPS plus many other metaphors for life derive from the road.  My favorite of such is found in John 14:6 when Jesus answers to Thomas (the doubter always having a hard time trusting) 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Like Thomas the Apostle, trusting enough to let go doesn't come easy to me.  At the first sign of the slightest bump on the road of my life, my glands start secreting panic signals immediately throughout my entire body.  I forget so quickly about the fact that my way is directed and protected by He Who Is The Way Himself...and I fall for the signs of "danger ahead" becoming frazzle and fearful.  I forget very quickly all His promises for safekeeping...that's why verse 27:5 of Psalm 27 is one I have hidden in my heart so it can come to me when I meet unexpected hazardous conditions on my way.  

The words that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write thousands of years ago, come alive in us today to bring us comfort and peace in a time when the road of life has become so very scary.  These words remind us that it doesn't matter how lost we think we are or how destroyed the way seems, in the day of trouble the way is never lost because Jesus is The Way, and He keeps us safe in Him, hidden in His tent and set high upon the Rock that is Himself...unmovable, unshakable, eternal. 

Thankfully, the trip to Panama was a joy and we didn't need any of the insurances we got for the rented car...not even the road-side assistance.  But it is comforting knowing that we have them if we need them...isn't it?

May we always keep Psalm 27:5 handy in our brain's address book under our emergency numbers, so it comes to our rescue when we need road-side assistance.  In Jesus' Precious Name.  Amen!


Friday, June 24, 2022

Belated Father's Day Tribute



One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27: 4

My Dad had a very distinctive voice. It was the type of voice that made most people afraid.  Even grown men stood a little straighter when they were in the presence of my Dad...now, when he spoke to them, you could see them shifting their weight to stand in attention almost as if a General were addressing them.  At home, he could make the walls tremble when he raised his voice...as well as the nerves of everyone inside the house.  But I loved his voice and I would give anything to hear him again. 

Sigh...

Reading this verse brought memories of my Dad's voice...I could almost hear him...
In my mind I see him holding a Bible, standing at the threshold of our house reading with all the thunder of his powerful projection to a crowd who dared not utter even a whisper:

y habitaré en la casa del Señor por años sin término.

The closing words of Psalm 23 spoken out of the lips of my Father every December, few days before Christmas, as the Posadas made a stop at our house.  Traditionally, a couple of weeks before Christmas, our neighborhood had Posadas, which is Spanish culture's special way of doing caroling.  All the kids and many parents from our neighborhood would visit about 5 homes every evening until each home was touched by the cheerful singers armed with tambourines and castanets.  Once the group would get to a house, there would be a sing-and-response between the group outside the door and those inside the house.  This was done to commemorate Mary and Joseph looking for an Inn in Bethlehem.  Once the door opened, the leader of the Posada would hand the leader of the household a Bible to read Psalm 23.

That was my Dad's role.

Reading, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, in Psalm 27 brought me back to those days of my youth because the words echo the las words in Psalm 23: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.  And the echo of my Father's voice reading that line comes to me from the distance...

Now that I am as old as my Dad was when the memories of him reading those verses are the most vivid in my mind, I pray he is, indeed, living in the house of the Lord for years without end...waiting for me...so I can hear him again.

May the Lord guide us in our path so we seek Him above all else, because when we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him in the fullness of His glory.  In the Precious Name of Jesus.  Amen!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Memories of a Just Cause



When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident. (Psalm 27: 2-3)

Praise the Lord, I've never been a foot soldier in the middle of a war, embattled in combat...literally in the trenches...and I pray I am never put in a position where I get to find out what that really is like.  But I do know the fear of having a powerful army advancing towards my vicinity...

It was the early hours of December 20th, 1989... the darkness before dawn still engulfing Panama City.  I woke up to the confusing sounds of what seemed like a weird mix between a freight train, an earthquake and a thunder storm.  The strange voices coming out of the radio sitting next to my bed...the same radio I used to leave on every night to bring me the comfort of noise in the lonely hours ... bounced around in my head incoherently.  Later I found out regular transistor radios were intercepting some communications among the armed forces at the initial hours of Operation Just Cause...the code name for the American invasion of Panama which I got to witnessed up close and personal. 

Confusion gave way to the slow realization that our city was the target of a massive attack directed at outing military dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega...a character that was not more than a second-rate annoyance to the United States, and a small thorn on the foot of the CIA, but certainly a devastating force of evil for my people, who had our small country under the sharp blade of his machete.

At any rate, all this reminiscing came to mind while reading verses 2 and 3 of Psalm 27... back then, as I was leaving my adolescence and entering adulthood, I wasn't yet very confidently standing on the firm foundation of My Solid Rock and unknown fears loomed in the shadows of my uncertain future, causing me to tremble at the first sign of trouble.  God's Word was not my constant companion, and His promises eluded me.

Over thirty years have gone by, most of which I have actually spent living and loving the very country that once attacked my home...and in those years, much learning has happened...including learning that the One Who Inspired the words in Psalm 27 is Trustworthy and Faithful, and that His promises are true.

The enemy has already stumbled and fallen...and though an army may seem to besiege us and war might explode all around us, our hearts do not fear because we rest in the confidence on the One Who Commands the winds and the waves...the heart trusts the One Who Promises because He is the Storm and He has overcome.

Therefore, whereas it'd be Latin American dictators in the 1980s or home-grown enemies that push to cancel our culture, we remain assured that nothing is out of the control of Our Lord, the One Who Holds the Future in His Hands so we don't have to worry, fear or doubt.



 

Monday, May 23, 2022

No Fear

 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27: 1

Yesterday at church we sang a song that brings me back to when my boys were little: You Never Let Go.  This song was written by Matt and Beth Redman and released in 2006.  It was a very regular tune in our evening rotation.  See, when our sons were little boys, they used to fall asleep to music...I think they still do...it's just that we don't get to pick the songs anymore.  Back then, though, when they were little, we had a stack of CDs...I know...that we rotated through, and that's how we first knew about Matt Redman.  Then, when Grant went to NCCA, this song came out and it became a staple.  

What I didn't know then, and I found out years later, was that the song contains inspiration straight from Psalm 27 verse 1.  The song says:

And I will fear no evil 
For my God is with me 
And if my God is with me 
Whom then shall I fear? 
Whom then shall I fear?

How comforting it is to know that since Our Almighty God is with us...there's nothing we need to fear? The mind plays tricks on us...and it believes whatever we feed it, good and bad...it is no wonder that Paul tells us to focus on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)  If we do not...if we allow our minds to wander into the thoughts of worry, calamity, what ifs, future adversity, upcoming doom...our souls will harbor nothing but fear.  Therefore, we must make it a habit to refocus and fix our eyes on the Only One who can  drive away the terror this world can instill in our hearts: Jesus the Christ! And where do we find Him?  First and foremost in Scripture.  So, whatever directs our path to the Word, that's what we should use as our guide.

Like my devotional reading said today:  "approach each new day with desire to find Me." (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young).  And we find Him when we look with eyes that are guided by His Love Letter to us:  The Bible.

The world may seem wrecked and doomed.  But, He hasn't abandoned it...and He hasn't abandoned us.  Let's make it a habit to visit with Our Lord in Scripture every day...Let's allow The Word to remind us that He is the Light of Our Salvation, and that there is nothing we need to fear.  I hope my sons were reminded of that when they sang the familiar tune at church yesterday.  I hope they felt a renewed sense of peace in their hearts, and strength to continue on, guarded by the knowledge that Our God is with us, and if He is with us, whom then shall we fear?

In the Precious Name of Jesus.  Amen!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Restlessness

 I often wrestle with my restless spirit.  The peace of contentment evades me and my mind wanders aimlessly in the emptiness of what ifs.  My heart does not profit from this, and I'm left with nothing but exhaustion. And again...here I am.

Maybe it's the gloomy coldness of rainy days below 60 degrees...maybe it's the lack of vitamin D.  Maybe it's loneliness.  Maybe it's idleness of the soul.  Maybe I just miss home.  I'm not sure what triggers it, but in moments like this, only one expression seems to fit: blah.

I have things to do but nothing inspiring.  I just got done packing my office at work.  Each box signifying the end of an era and the beginning of something new...and I'm not 100% sure it will be all good.  A hesitant first step indicates that there is no turning back...and I'm glad, but at the same time, I worry...I hope I made the right choice...I hope this move helps us survive...I hope the remedy doesn't end up fully destroying us. 

I feel a weight lifting off from my shoulders, but another one descending. The weight of uncertainty can be a heavy one to carry. 

What's left for me to do?

I'm not sure, but I know where to find answers.  I go to the place in Scripture in which I usually hang out in my times of deepest anguish and anxiety: The Psalms.  Maybe King David, a man after God's own heart, who was not a stranger to anguish and persecution can give me some guidance today once again.  And as I search, I land on Psalm 27... and this is what the blessed words say:  

The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?


When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.


One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.


Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.


Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.


I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

It is impossible to comment on this master piece in one post.  So, I will take my time going verse by verse in the coming days to see where The Holy Spirit leads...as I wait for the Lord in all hope, anticipation and trust! Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19: 14

Monday, May 16, 2022

Relax

 Sometimes relaxing is just the hardest thing to do. At least it is for me. It's almost as if I feel guilty when I'm trying to relax. There is so much to do, I just have a hard time allowing myself to chill and take it easy. Life could be so demanding, and I've been so busy that I just can't believe I have time to just...be...

I looked at my list of things to do now that the semester is over, and I had to read it a few times before I realized I actually have time to just not do anything.

We have to get ready for our upcoming trip, and I have to pack my office at work because we are moving...but...all that can wait until Monday.  This weekend, something unbelievable is happening: I don't have to rush to do anything! LOL Of course, I have to feed my family, put clothes away, maybe clean a bit...but...nothing is pending over my head...no deadlines...this hasn't happened in YEARS!

It is the blessing of not being in a leadership position anymore. And I am grateful beyond words about that. Some people thrive when they are the boss. I want to shrivel down and die. Being the department chair at work sucked the life out of me, so I am inexpressibly thankful that, as of this past week, I have officially handed that role off to someone else. I am so relieved, it's as if I'm able to breathe again!

The experience taught me that I am not cut out for being in charge. I am not good as a leading lady...I'm more of a supporting role. I'm great at doing what others tell me. I'm not gifted enough to figure out the way on my own. And that's why I'm so grateful that I don't really have to...for I have One who directs my path...I have One who is the Way Himself, and He tells me to follow Him...and that's all I have to do.  

I trust Him when He tells me, "Come, follow me."

I'm not the best...I fail over and over again...I do so many stupid things...I'm so far from good...but He is always by my side, next to me...

I can relax now. He fights my battles. He holds me. He is the Light in my darkness. He guides me. He loves me. He guards my sleep...He stays awake so I can rest.  He guides my feet into the path of peace...(Luke 1: 79)