Plead the 55th

I’m marching through the book of Numbers now in my Bible reading.  Lately, it’s been the Psalm selections that have gotten to me.  Today was no exception.

David sets the scene in Psalm 55.  He’s scared.  His enemies surround him. He calls out to God.

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Do not ignore my cry for help!
 Please listen and answer me,
    for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.
My enemies shout at me,
    making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
    and angrily hunt me down.

My heart pounds in my chest.
    The terror of death assaults me.
 Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
    and I can’t stop shaking.
 Oh, that I had wings like a dove;
    then I would fly away and rest!
 I would fly far away
    to the quiet of the wilderness.    Interlude
 How quickly I would escape—
    far from this wild storm of hatred. Ps. 55:1-8

Alas, no run-of-the-mill enemy taunts him. David outlines a much deeper betrayal.

It is not an enemy who taunts me—
    I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—
    I could have hidden from them.
 Instead, it is you—my equal,
    my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed
    as we walked together to the house of God. Ps. 55:13-14

David makes his plea.

But I will call on God,
    and the Lord will rescue me.
Morning, noon, and night
    I cry out in my distress,
    and the Lord hears my voice. Ps. 55:16-17

Yahweh had saved him from bears, lions *and* Goliath.  He turns to God now in what must have been extreme emotional turmoil. Not a new scene for David, to be sure, but for the warrior-king to say this

Give your burdens to the Lord,
    and he will take care of you.
    He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Ps. 55:22

David didn’t say, “Gird your loins for the battle.  Steel yourself for the enemy’s blows. Take it like a man!”

No.

He advised surrendering your burdens to God. What counts as a burden? All those things we lug around are too heavy for us. Condemnation, my pet project. Jealousy. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness. Regret. Unforgiveness.  Often, our feelings have merit.  Situations turned sour. People have hurt us.  They betrayed us. But we can’t fix it. That’s the meat of the matter. We need to let God do it. Even better, it’s not our responsibility. Our part is to forgive and extend kindness.

I submit if we steel ourselves, we end up with walled hearts.  Our attempts at self-preservation will shut others out. Now, back to to truth. People will hurt us. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes through misunderstandings. I can guarantee you that. But our hearts must remain open and tender. That, friends, takes real bravery. We can only do it as we trust in the Lord.

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Hearing and Obeying

The devotional I read today talked about listening and obeying.  Funny, I thought.  Since the word “obey” actually has two meanings:  to hear and to do.  Its roots go way back to Old Latin, Old French, then Old English.  Obeying, then, has two parts.  If I only hear, it’s gone in one ear and possibly right out the other.  But if I hear *and* do, then I’ve truly obeyed.

Perhaps this is why the apostle Paul admonished Christians that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Granted, not everyone had literacy during this period, nor were copies of the epistles easily to hand.  Scriptures in the synagogue and in the church of The Way often got read aloud.  It  makes sense that hearing something over and over again caused it to stick.

The devotional today cited Deuteronomy 5:29.  This is God speaking to Moses.  “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.”

Obeying commands includes the illustrious Ten, as well as numerous others set forth in the Old Testament. I like the concept of prospering forever. Obedience brings blessing (Proverbs 13:13).

This devotional reading by Joyce Meyer went on to emphasize that we need to be reading our bibles and positioning ourselves to hear.  Good reminder.  Perhaps, if we’re not able to open a Bible in our current location, we can engage in another way. Maybe we fast a meal or two.  Maybe we sing some worship choruses. We could pray in the Spirit. Some of us may even need to take a walk outside in the fresh air.

In all the years I’ve been a Christian, decades now, I’ve learned one thing:  God has an infinite capacity to surprise.  He speaks in big ways and small ways.  He can use the plots of movies to highlight truth. He reveals himself in nature, season by season. I know for sure is that if you set yourself to hear from Him, He will answer.  Just be open to it coming to you in an unexpected way.  He is the most creative being in the universe.  He doesn’t do things the same way twice.  Ask Moses.

I guess I would add to Ms. Meyer’s heartfelt words, if you’re diligently seeking God, you won’t miss what He has to say.  You might misinterpret it.  You might discount it.  You could even hate it. But He will answer you, one way or another. Frankly, that’s the easy part.  Once you hear, then you must obey. Obedience shows God our love, and that we trust Him.

I’ll end this with Joyce’s own words:  “Make it a lifestyle to be identified with Jesus Christ and faithfully be a doer of the Word. Hear His wisdom and follow it today.”

Amen!

Lift Up Your Face

I can’t get enough of this song today. It keeps hitting me between the eyes.  The lead singer of Third Day, Mac Powell, has a voice like the best velvety chocolate cake or perfectly grilled sirloin, take your pick. You can almost stick a fork in it, it’s so tangible. His blues-rock-gospel vocals stand out from a host of Jeremy Camp/Chris Tomlin copycats. I have several Third Day songs on my mp3 player.  For a long season, they provided music for the first half of my training runs.  I clicked to their selections first. They didn’t disappoint. Their compilation made up about 20 minutes of running, the first 8 or so straight uphill. Third Day’s worshipful songs encouraged me, helped me to press on when lying down on the pavement seemed much the better option. 

I find this song bringing the same hope to my heart today. Songs based on scriptural truths have that ability. I’m in a “lift up your face” place right now.  I’m holding on, and I encourage you to do the same. God will come through, if we only wait.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. – Psalm 25: 1-2

 

The Politics of Dancing

We got audited at the city last week.  Well, the project did.  Out of nowhere, though we knew it would happen sometime before the project closed.  I felt incredibly anxious.  I mean, what if I missed some of the payroll issues?  Why didn’t I implement a subcontractor tracking system to know when they’d be onsite?  Why didn’t my predecessors?  Where is that CFDA number anyway?! Aaugh!

It got me thinking.  We try so hard to always do the right thing and make no mistakes.  Yet we do make mistakes.  Sometimes they happen very publicly, in fact.  All we can do is put in our best good faith effort and stay positive, trusting we’ve done enough.  I figured I could do no more, so I surrendered the whole mess to God.  I cooperated with the auditor. I withheld nothing, I gave honest appraisals of myself and the circumstances.  My boss did the same.

But…we passed!  The auditor had no findings.  In the common vernacular, it’s the equivalent of “no news is good news”. The good report still makes me a little giddy.  I am thankful the original grant administrator set up the files so well, and the interim gal before me took care of a few missing items from the monitoring visit. They put their time and expertise in, too. As for me,  I plan to finish well. This put a little pep in my step, I must say.  Hence the the song.

I wanted to dance on the spot – just a teensy jig – but it seemed politically incorrect. Or maybe just goofy. Plus I don’t know any jigs, anyway. God came through.  Hallelujah!  I’m dancing now.

 

Miss Communication

miss communication

I got back in touch with a friend today. Through a miscommunication issue, I missed work – a huge job.  Oops!  We certainly could have used the money.

This human shell has unique frailties.  We misinterpret signals.  We give mixed messages through our body language and choice of words.  Or we say nothing at all.  All of these can cause others to reach wrong conclusions.  I know I’ve perpetrated situations myself through my own ignorance and/or stupidity.  Chalk up another one on that list.

Turns out my emails went straight to her junk email box. I figured since I didn’t hear anything, the work got cancelled.  She assumed because I didn’t contact her, I wasn’t interested or was otherwise occupied.  I’ve learned now I need to be more assertive in seeking answers.

In hindsight, it’s kind of funny, like the Keystone Cops temporarily took over the internet.

But this job isn’t – wasn’t – our source.  None of our jobs are. God is.  With all the skills and abilities Jonathon and I have, nothing compares to the ability of the Lord to provide.  I can’t out-give Him and I can’t out-trust Him. In times like these,  I actively recall Romans 8:28.  He takes care of me.

Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

Rice Crispy Treatise

(Not my creations.)

I got all hepped up this weekend.  It was my turn to make the treats for church visitors.  Yippee!  I even had a brainwave.  I would make two-tone rice crispy treats in blue and green stripes.  Seahawks colors.  Get it?!

Oh, the hubris.

I eagerly mixed up the requisite amount of marshmallows and butter in half batches.  I tossed them in the microwave.  Two minutes.  Stir.  Another minute.  Stir.  Okay, so the marshmallows started out a little crunchy.  What else do you do with old marshmallows?

Something was horribly wrong.  I frowned. The microwave concoction didn’t come together. Melted butter pooled in the bottom of the blue bowl. Puzzled, I added the food coloring.  I dumped the slimy mass into the pre-measured rice crispies.  I stirred.  The mass elongated, a stringy oobleck-like mess.  Weird.  I stirred and stirred.  It simply didn’t come together.

I prayed a quick, “What now, Lord?”  I know!  I scooped some out of the bowl and pressed them into balls.  Rice crispy balls!  Ta da!

But I could never make enough for all the visitors we might have.  I needed at least 2 dozen to be safe.

I stirred up another batch.  Same thing, only these were greenish-blue.  Well, I tried to make them plain old blue.  The food coloring had other ideas.

I’d pressed most of the last batch into a 9 x 13 Pyrex pan, hoping to create a layered effect, the bottom layer green. I resigned myself to changing up the proportions. The new batch (colorless) looked good.  I’d increased the ratio of butter and marshmallows.  And this time, I melted them on the stovetop.  The melted mixture completely combined.  Yay!

I pressed the virgin treats on top of the greenish ones and let them cool.  All right!  Now to take a break and let those be.

I came back later and cut them up.  The knife scraped through the brittle surface.  I cut carefully, trying to make good-sized portions.  Alas, the two layers separated.  The green layer, crumbly and broken, did not adhere evenly to the top layer of lovely gooey goodness.

(I had pictures – lots of them – but true to form, they wouldn’t upload.  At all.)

I gave up.

If you know anything about making these treats, they’re very simple.  The equation is butter + marshmallows + rice crispies.  Really, any moron could do it.

Except me.

I managed to salvage the treats and put them aside for Ruby and company. These treats, flat on top and random green chunks protruding on the bottom, resembled mineral excavations from a cave. The neighborhood kids had commented on how delicious the balls were and the new ones were the same, though certainly ugly.

“These are really good, ” one girl commented around a bite.

“Is there butterscotch in these?” she asked.

No.  Somehow, I caramelized the butter.  Go, me!

I should mention I have made rice crispy treats before.  It’s been awhile, but I am perfectly capable. At least, I thought I was.

I learned something from this.  I felt like the Lord was trying to show me that I could trust Him.  I had the vision and the heart to do this.  I did not, however, have the complete ability or inspiration.  Jonathon did.  He ran with my idea. He found a better recipe and cooked it all on the stove.  He bought more marshmallows, upping their ratio even more.  He found gel food coloring to get the green and blue just right and very bright.  He even added an extra layer of plain rice crispies to the green and blue.  They looked stellar.  Next time, no microwave.  He whipped up another pan to bring to our church leadership meeting, this time with a pink layer.  Fabulous!

I learned that unless God breathes on what you’re doing, it ain’t gonna work.  The equation is heart + ability + inspiration.  I didn’t have the last part. Jonathon did. On the upside, I created a brand new, labor intensive breakfast cereal:  Buttery Mallow Chunks!  The kids are thrilled.  Coming soon to a supermarket near you.

I am grateful for a spouse who is truly a team player and enjoys cooking.  Sometimes, our best laid plans fall apart.  Literally.  And it’s alright.

For Janathon, to ease my cranky back, I stretched for about 20 minutes.  Tomorrow, back at it.

The “T” Word

Trust.  It’s a five-letter word meaning:

firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
As you know by now, I stink at trusting.  I have a hard time trusting people.  I have a hard time trusting God.  I have the hardest time trusting myself.  Did I really do the right thing then?  Did I hear God correctly?
 I find myself in this “school” again.  Financially, I must rely on God.  As much as we’ve employed the Dave Ramsey program to get control of our finances and achieve a measure of peace, sometimes it seems a little frenetic to me.  Sell everything you can!  Live on beans and rice!  I panic, thinking I’m not doing enough with what we’ve received.  And I don’t much like beans and rice. I don’t think that’s Mr. Ramsey’s true message.  Yet my type A personality feels like I’m falling down if we’re not masochistically paying debt first and not ourselves.
It’s pretty much the same with eating.  I gave up sugar, but I believe the Lord wants me to learn to eat sugar and everything else in moderation. Most Americans eat it on a daily basis; it’s part of our culture.  I’ve done time without sugar.  I learned a lot.  I may still have seasons here and there where I need to get completely off it, a fast of sorts. Most of the western world eats pie, cake, cookies and drinks lattes.  Sugar is not the enemy, at least not in my universe:  my attitude is.
I’m getting it.  I’m hearing that still, small voice in this area like He’s spoken in so many others.  It’s okay to rest and wait on God’s timing.  In fact, it’s obedience.  Me striving and making things happen out of fear or anxiety is not the plan.  When I finally let go of control, I find peace.  My surrender allows God to work. We find money in the strangest places (not the laundry).  The stubborn scale moves down despite no extra exercise.  It’s puzzling because it’s not the American way.  “I did it my wa-a-ay!” To quote Queen Latifah from “Last Holiday”: “You put your head down, and you hustle, and you hustle…Eventually, you look up and wonder how you got here.”
But doing it our way is contrary to being a Christian.  Yes, Jesus guides and directs and plops situations in our paths.  Pushing our own agenda forward creates turmoil.  Self-made men and women are a bit too homemade around the edges for me, to paraphrase a former pastor of ours.
So, I’m testing it. This trust thing is a muscle.   I will put it through its paces.  I’m not pestering Zac about his schoolwork.  Much.  Lo and behold, he finishes it! I celebrate shopping at the store and what we are able to purchase.  Presto!  It stretches and we all feel blessed by what we buy.  I tell Ruby I expect her to pick up after herself one time…and she rises to meet it.  Mostly.  Every time it works, I gain a little ground.  I see my Father at work and I am grateful.  My trust-muscle gets stronger.
Psalm 138:8The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.