October 23, 2016

Blessed Sunday

It is another Sunday, and I am feeling blessed. I can hardly believe that it is October 23, 2016, already. I mean, in less than a week, it will be Halloween and then its November, Thanksgiving, and woohoo, Christmas-time! The year just flies by once we get to October, and now that it is the end of the month, well, the holiday season is upon us! Oh, yes!

THIS is my favorite time of the year. I love everything “fall” but I especially love harvest, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I find this time of year soothing for some reason. I am not sure why, but I just love the crisp cool days, the change of colors, and the coming approach of winter.

I have blogged before about how I really love the gray days of winter, and how I have an aversion to the sunshine. Well, I do love the sun, don’t get me wrong — it is just that I cannot take bold, strong sunlight — without some end in sight. This is why I love four season climates. The average number of cloudy days is somewhere around 50%. This means that on every 1 of 2 days, the skies will be filled with clouds. These clouds could be big fluffy white cotton clouds or they could be high thin straight clouds. Or they could be storm clouds. Clouds, clouds, clouds — I love them — no matter what shape, size or color.

In fall, though, the chance of storm clouds that bring rain or sleet or snow is common. I miss that sensation of impending snow. I can feel it, I can sense it, even now after all these years away from the Midwest. I miss the feeling that it might snow.

Delight Yourself in the Lord

I guess what I miss the most about my childhood days in the Midwest was simply my childhood days. Yes, it is true. I really just miss the ease of my childhood. I miss the steadiness of my life, the solid boundary lines of expectation. I didn’t worry much about my life back then because I LIVED it. I mean, I woke up every day and I did the same thing — got dressed, ate breakfast, headed off to school. On the reverse end, I came home from school, did my homework, went outside to play until it was dark. Then dinner, wrapping up the evening, bedtime. Start all over again. It was a very simplified life.

In many ways, my life is just as simple really. I was thinking about this today, how my life has turned out to be pretty much what I expected it would be. Granted, it took me a long while to get to where I am today, and now that I am finally teaching (part-time, but almost full-time), I am living my dream or my desired dream life. Sure, there are still some things I miss or want to accomplish, but for the most part, I have accomplished my dream of becoming a college professor. I have achieved my highest goal (almost my PhD), and I am doing the thing I always wanted, hoped, and dreamed of doing.

This morning as I laid in bed, I was thinking and praying over my life. I was feeling a little down, as I always do on Sundays, and I heard myself say, “Lord, I need a new life!” Lately, this is the phrase that pops out of my mouth frequently. Often, it is because I am frustrated over some aspect of my life or I feel a little bewildered about something, some part. I think it is because I am overwhelmed right now and I have too much to do, too many little balls to keep in the air. So there I was, in bed, thinking about my life, and exclaiming to the Lord that I needed or wanted a “different life.” I stopped myself as soon as the words came out of my mouth because in truth, I do love my life. I mean, I really do have everything I have desired and my life is very good. So why am I asking the Lord to provide a different — aka — a better life for me? Good question…

I think the main reason is that I am not quite settled in this life. I have some, well, almost all of my little ducks in a row, but not everything is really set for me. I feel like I am still in transition, still in this half-way place between here and now — and over-there — over in my future life. As I was praying about this very thing today, I asked the Lord to forgive me for my unhappy sentiment, for my thoughts which seemed to suggest that I was dissatisfied with what the Lord has provided to me. Yet, in my heart, I know I am content. I know I am satisfied, happy, and very much at peace. So what exactly is missing or what am I missing, what thing is missing, that would settle my heart, my mind, and yes, my soul, on this matter?

Psalm 37:3-6a says,

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.

This Psalm in particular is special to me. I have committed this portion of David’s psalm to my heart. I have meditated on it, considered it, and even trusted in it (in the sense of believing the words are true). I took David’s words as truth, and as such, much of my life since that time has been predicated on the belief that if I do what this Psalm says in these verses, the outcome as promised in them will be delivered to me. In short, I believed (and still do) that if I:

Trust in the Lord and do good
—>I will live safely in the land and I will prosper

Delight in the Lord
—>He will give me the desires of my heart

Commit everything I do to the Lord and trust Him
—>He will help me

In this way, I have come to believe that the promises of the Lord as spoken through King David were not just for his life, but rather the promises were for everyone reading, singing, memorizing, and adhering to this particular psalm throughout the ages. I believe this is so; no, I know it is so. Let me explain…

David wrote this psalm as a Maschil or a teaching psalm (Matthew Henry). In this way, it was created to be a sermon to help build up and edify the people. Curiously, BibleGateway.org states that this psalm is a Hebrew acrostic poem, which simply means that each stanza begins with a different letter in the Hebrew alphabet. That fact just blows my mind because when you read Psalm 37 in its totality, you see how difficult it would be to write a coherent song of praise to God while using every single letter of the alphabet. I digress. What I find interesting about these particular verses is the way in which David clearly delineates between the prosperity of the wicked and the blessedness of the righteous. In this way, David is encouraging the Jews to remain faithful to Yahweh despite the fact that the wicked seem to prosper (be successful) all around them. The promises of God are worth waiting for, and David, was reminding the people that while they were patiently waiting for God to fulfill His word to them, they had to turn from anger and wrath (against what was happening around them), and commit their way fully and completely to God.

When I remember this psalm like this, I can see why it became such a blessing to me. At the time I first deeply read it, I was going through a number of difficult life-situations that for all intents and purposes be called “wicked.” I was in a difficult place in my marriage, and as it was crumbling around me, I was watching wickedness prosper. Furthermore, I was an outcast, lost and alone, and for a long time, my life seemed meaningless and hopeless. I read this psalm on a particularly difficult day, a day when I felt that my life had no purpose, no hope, and no future. I remember reading it and praying afterward. I asked the Lord point-blank if this psalm were true, if the words spoken by David were true. I heard the Lord say, “yes,” and then I asked if they were true universally (then and now), and I heard His voice say, “yes.” I don’t remember exactly what I did next, but I believe I said something like, “If this is true, Lord, then I am willing to do what this psalm says.” I went on to promise the Lord that I would trust in Him and do good. I would delight in Him and I would commit everything (my life) to Him. I would expect in return that He would keep His promises to allow me to live safely and securely and to prosper me (financially, physically, spiritually, etc.). More so, I believed that He would give me the desires of my heart as a reward for my willingness to commit my way to Him, to follow Him, and to surrender fully to Him. In short, I would do my part and He would do His part, and together we would have an accord (agreement).

I recall this moment now even though it was nearly 10 years ago. In that time, the Lord has kept His word to me (or I should say He has been faithful to David’s words). I believe that He has done exactly what this psalm promised:

He has provided a way for me to live safely and securely. He has provided prosperity in the form of financial resources, physical wellness, spiritual growth, and emotional stability. He has given me the desires of my heart and He has helped me day in and day out to move on, to be established, to be settled.

So this morning as I laid in bed, recounting my desire for a “new life,” I couldn’t help but think about this psalm and how the Lord has already provided everything I have desired, wanted, hoped, and dreamed. Thus, I was faced with one last question, which I asked with a sincere and contrite heart:

What then, Lord, do I still desire?

I mean, there must be something missing that is keeping me from being settled, from feeling as though I am finally satisfied. I wondered if it was material as in a home or more money (less debt)? I wondered if it was personal as in a relationship renewed, restored, or rekindled? I wondered if it was some new thing, a way of life, or a different path to follow? I wondered if it was an ending to my current status of “overwhelm” or if it was simply more rest (real rest)?

In the end, I believe my answer was simply this: the Lord has given to me my desire for a new life, a life that is predicated on serving Him fully and completely. More so, the Lord has given to me the desire to have purposeful work, practical good work that is satisfying to me. Lastly, the Lord has given me safety and security, a place to live where I can feel safe (finally). In all His promised reward, the Lord has helped me over and over again to feel good about myself. He has reshaped and reaffirmed my identity. He has reestablished my self-esteem and He has helped me achieve some things that have brought me praise and honor. In all of these ways, I have come to experience His goodness as it flows from His hand, and I have come to recognize that my life does have value, worth, and purpose. I still struggle at times to figure out the way to go, and I worry some over my debt, but I believe strongly, convincingly that the Lord does keep His word. He is faithful. He is righteous, and He is good. Selah!

Understanding The Missing Piece

So this morning as I laid in bed praying, I couldn’t help but think that the one thing that is missing from my life is the Lord, Himself. And by that I simply mean His presence. I have the Holy Spirit of God living within me, and I am walking through this life waiting for the day when I will be in His presence forever. Yes, this is the desire that has yet to be fulfilled in me. I long to be home with the Lord. I long to be there now, to have all this passed away, and to spend my eternity worshiping Him. Until that day, however, I am where I am, and I have work to do. I know this, and I accept my purpose, my mission, and my calling. Yet, my heart longs for something I cannot have, and I think that is why I feel dissatisfied at times. I really would like to be with the Lord, but I know that He has asked me to do somethings in this life and those things must be done according to His word, His will, and through His way. I cannot shirk my responsibility at this point in time. I have to trust Him to provide for me. I have to be patient and wait for His leading and guidance. He will fulfill His word — He is faithful — and He is trustworthy. I know it; I believe it; I wait for it.

In this way, I realize that the Lord has met my needs with sufficiency. He has provided everything I needed to have a good, stable, and healthy life. I may not have every material thing I see and like; but I do have most of every good thing I need. I realize that in the work He has provided to me, He has given me a good profession whereby I can feel confident that I am doing quality work, good work, and in that way, I can feel satisfied. Moreover, as I think about my needs, which are minimal, I realize that He has provided for my security by giving to me a good job, a nice house, and safe area to live in. I work for a good school (multiple), and I drive a safe car. In all these things, He has provided well for me. I lack nothing. He has made all this possible. He is good to me, so very good to me.

Now, I accept that my life has been redeemed. Not only have I been saved from the slave pit, but I have also been given a new way to go, a new lease on life, and I have been set free to walk on in the security and hope of the Lord. I may not have everything I want, and this is key, but I do have most everything I desired.

The Lord has been good to me. He has made my life wonderfully brand new. I give Him praise today. I honor Him, and I worship Him on this good, good Sunday. May the Lord be praised this good, good day. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to receive our praise!

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