Psalm 107-109

I wear a lot of different hats right now. I’m a mom to Taylor. A daughter to my parents. An administrative assistant to Visible Grace. A nanny to two children. A team leader to my church. A blogger (who isn’t, right?). A friend, a neighbor, a volunteer, an amateur cook to my husband and a subscriber to Real Simple.

When I’m organized, my life is a well-oiled machine. You know how it goes. Scheduled appointments. Routines. To do lists. Etc. But lately, I’ve been dropping the ball in almost every area of my life. I’m juggling some new responsibilities, tying up some legal loose ends (I didn’t do it), nursing a toothache, and standing in the face of a big change. I’m behind in work emails, my house is a disaster and Taylor is out of clean pajamas.

I feel really guilty and am convinced if I’m a Good Employee and a Good House Wife and a Good Mom that I’ll feel better about myself. I feel tempted to earn my spot.

This morning, my eyes quickly scanned the psalms, as I searched for a verse to feel connected to. I wanted something to soothe me, like salve on burned skin. I didn’t find that, but I loved this verse in Psalm 109:

“For he stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.”

It reminded me that I follow the God who loves the needy. Needy people rarely have something to offer back. God loves me and I do not have to prove myself to him, earn my spot or perform. I’m repenting of religious tendencies this morning and basking in his grace and unconditional love. But also, I’m going to make a to do list, start the laundry, return a few calls and play with my son uninterrupted. I’m searching for the balance of being responsible in the roles God has placed me in and living in his grace, making room for my own mistakes and not finding my identity anywhere else besides in the God who stands with the needy.

 

-Carly

Psalm 104-106

“He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting.” (104:19‬)

Remember God as our brilliant Creator. There are many chapters in the Bible which delve into His designs. Even some which gave away aspects of creation before being “discovered by modern science”. Is the earth flat, or does He sit above the circle of the earth? (Isaiah 40:22)

Certainly the recounted wonders of God’s intricately designed creation flies in stark contrast to “the image of the ox that eats grass” (106:20), underlining the absurdity of worshipping anyone/anything other than Him.

Have you ever watched the video series Planet Earth? For myself, and many others, it is a worshipful experience. Creation is unbelievably beautiful and complex. God is humorously creative and stunning.

Consider the wonders of creation today. Watch planet earth, the discovery channel, or just look out your window. Hike, explore, hold a baby, exercise your complex body! Then worship our Creator God who so wisely created seasons and designed everything down to the make up of our atoms.

Thank you, LORD, for your glorious works and for being so thoroughly good.

-Bethany

Psalm 101-103

“Let all that I am praise the Lord.”

This caught my eye this morning. The psalmist writes “praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom, let all that I am praise the Lord”. They mean they desire every cell in their body to praise God, giving him the glory he deserves.

In my opinion, a lifetime of praising God is possible through perspective. It’s tempting to think “I will follow and praise God if I could just have/get/be ____”. But, he is always deserving of praise and everyone’s life is marked by his grace.

Check your perspective this morning. Set aside the things that you think are going wrong and dwell on the reasons God is worthy of praise. When I look at it that way, my list is long.

I saw a beautiful sunrise. I had food to eat this morning. I have a job to go to (and am running late for). I’m sharing a big meal among friends and neighbors tonight. I have a healthy family. Signs of spring are everywhere. I have the pages of the Bible right at my fingertips. I’m not the woman I was before. I’m less selfish. More gracious. God is actively changing my heart and revealing more of himself to me every day. Let all that I am praise the Lord for this!

What’s your list?

 

-Carly

 

Psalm 98-100

The titles of these psalms in the NASB are: 

  • A call to praise the LORD for His righteousness 
  • Praise to the LORD for His fidelity to Israel
  • His steadfast love endures forever a psalm for giving thanks

Praising God for who He is (good, righteous, holy), praising Him for what He does (remains faithful, executes justice), and giving thanks for all of it, especially His relentless love, sound like a beautiful discipline for every day.

I’ve been challenged, lately, to focus on the good. I’ve been desperate to keep my eyes glued to the LORD’s. I’ve reconsidered grudges and found I don’t have the energy for them anymore. Life is in reconciliation.

I am eternally grateful to know the LORD is not like me. He doesn’t need advice, He doesn’t change His mind, He always knows the best and highest way. He doesn’t get confused by the messiness of life or the seemingly endless shades of grey. My anxiety is always a blatant ignoring of His track record of faithfulness. It does me well to spend time praising Him for that.

I can see blue sky out my window this morning and I will certainly praise Him for that. I can rest in the knowledge of His goodness in all I don’t understand. Do you know humility is super freeing? Remain in the places of truth.

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (100:3)

Let’s praise Him today for being God instead of us. Let’s rest, knowing we are His dearly beloved sheep. 

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

-Bethany 

Psalm 95-97

“Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. For the Lord is a great God, a great king above all gods.” 95:1

Sometimes I need the simple remind that God is better than the other things I worship in his place. Of course I know this, but obviously I doubt it when I reach for my laptop to binge watch Netflix when I’m overwhelmed, instead of coming to him.

He’s better than my husband. He’s better than food (even cheese). He’s better than new clothes, a bigger house, a killer haircut and losing weight. He’s better than people liking me.

This morning, I’m repenting of the ways I turn from him and worship lifeless idols. Like the psalmist, I’m coming to him with thanksgiving. I want to sing psalms of praise to him, because he is a great God.

What’s stopping you from worshipping him fully? Is there something you need to cast aside? Are you hiding from him? Stop and ask yourself how you can connect more deeply with him today.

 

-Carly

Psalm 92-94

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning And Your faithfulness by night,” (92:1-2)

He is the breath that sweeps through every day to give it life. Beginning the morning declaring His love, relishing in the newness of His mercies. Then ending the day in thankfulness and expectancy for His power to reign again tomorrow. This is our hope, this is our gift.

We have been granted direct access to the Creator God, because He loves us, and sacrificially pursues us. He covers our sins and prepares for us good works.

The Psalmist is clearly very concerned about the curruption of governments and doesn’t hesitate to wish death upon people who hurt orphans.

“He has brought back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our God will destroy them.” (94:23)

He is more concerned with justice than we are. He will deal with evil, we must remain submitted to Him and His command to love, even our enemies.

We worship Him because He is over everything. In that we rest.

Happy Tuesday.

-Bethany

Psalm 89-91

I love the proclamation of God’s goodness in 89:9-18. It reads like a resume of God’s power and sovereignty.

“You rule the oceans. You subdue their storm-tossed waves. You crushed the great sea monster…you created north and south…powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand!” (I want more information on this sea monster, by the way.)

On this drizzly Monday, as I deeply anticipate spring, I’m inspired by those verses to make a list of God’s greatness. My mind is foggy from a slew of cold remedies, so it doesn’t read quite as poetically, but here are the bullet points:

-You revive Godless cities, gathering your people and spreading your story.

-You change the seasons with a wave of your hand; who else can control the weather?

-You speak to children; they’re able to know of you before they’re told.

-Your law is love and your gospel is peace.

What would be your list to God, acknowledging his power? This is a good exercise to see things with a gospel lens. The gospel isn’t just a story. It’s alive. We can see evidence of it every day if we’re looking for it. The more you bend your life around it and posture yourself towards it, the easier it becomes to sight it.

Where have you seen a gospel-like moment lately? I saw it in an episode of This Is Us recently. If you haven’t seen the show, I’ll try not to spoil the first couple episodes for you. But a family member extends mercy to his undeserving father. It’s monumental. His father deserves none of it. His life is marked by his father’s sin against him, his wounds still raw from the pain he caused him. Yet he offers him incomprehensible mercy and forgiveness.  That is gospel.

Keep your eyes peeled for glimmers of God’s story today; it’s everywhere.

 

-Carly

Psalm 86-88

“When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (86:7‬)

Indeed, psalm 88 is one heckofa distress call.

“my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.” (88:9‬)

We, westerners, are not sure what to do with grief. When we hear about the death of our friend’s loved one, we get real awkward and tend to say nothing, fearing we’ll say the wrong thing. We don’t know how to comfort those who mourn, besides perhaps sending a casserole. What’s worse, is when the death is of our own loved one, and we don’t know what to do with all the casseroles.

Grief sweeps in at the most in opportune times. You can carve out an entire afternoon to cry and not manage a single tear. You can take two weeks “vacation”, then completely crumple in the middle of an important business presentation. Grief is a savage beast like that.

In the Bible, I see our ancient predecessors tearing their clothes and sitting in ashes, when they grieve. The whole neighborhood gets together to wail loudly. It’s as if the horrific nature of death demands a clamorous parade of corporate sobbing. Why, then, do I attempt to contain it in a few quickly wiped away tears?

Many of the psalms make me uncomfortable with their deep echos of hopelessness: “Darkness is my closest friend”?! Is that the sort of thing someone who knows God should say?!

Yes.

Yes.

Tear your clothes before the Lord. Scream, “I have nothing!” Question everything. Do not accept death, it was never intended for you.

My best times with the Lord are usually when I’m naked. Maybe whilst streaking or skinny dipping, or maybe just in the shower. What is between me and my Creator? What am I hiding behind? Nothing. I can’t divert the conversation elsewhere, I can’t distract myself with things or other people. It’s just me and Him. 

We live in a very broken world. Unspeakable horrors and death happen every second, around the globe. Remembering the best and only hope we have is Our Creator is a true act of worship. Now that my life is inseparably intertwined with the lives of refugees, I need to make a habit of grief. Healthy grief. Good grief, if you will. Psalms grief.

I’m going to go to the beach in the middle of the night, take off my clothes, cry and scream into the waves and say:

“LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to You. May my prayer come before You; turn Your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.

Are Your wonders known in the place of darkness, or Your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?” (88:1-3, 12‬)
I know He will meet me there, and I think it will be deeply therapeutic.

-Bethany

Psalm 83-85

I grew up thinking heaven would be really boring. I imagined it would be a lot like sitting through the family services at the large church my parents attended, which I usually dreaded. There’s a worship song that quotes Psalm 83, “better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere”. My heart would flinch as I realized I couldn’t relate; I didn’t feel like that.

In hindsight, I hadn’t truly experienced God’s presence before. Because once you do, you echo the psalmists words that “I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”(83:10) I wholeheartedly agree that this world can’t offer me a lifetime of anything that is comparably to a moment in God’s presence.

And I’ve learned that being with God isn’t just standing through a corporate worship session, mouthing along to the words.

It’s when the words of the Bible jump off the page to me and tell me exactly what I need to hear. It’s when I’m walking through the park in autumn and realize he’s even provided beauty in the death of leaves. It’s when his peace and presence wash over me in the most unlikely circumstance, like my son gasping for air during an asthma attack.

I could go on and on and on. When is a time you’ve experienced his presence? If you don’t think you have yet, ask for it. I had a professor say one time that we are as close to God as we want to be. I feel repentant this morning, for all the things I put first before seeking out time in God’s space.

In a world of relentless opportunities to be distracted, what does it look like for you to be with God?

 

-Carly

 

 

 

Psalm 80-82

“In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear me, my people, and I will warn you— if you would only listen to me, Israel!” (81:7-8‬)

How often do we wail, cry and plead for God to save us, and then ignore His Word? I think it’s time we are honest with ourselves.

We are people of the New Covenant. Our salvation is certain, in Christ. We will live, even when we die. This is an incredible promise.

The problem is right now. Right now our freedom makes us crazy as we navigate life, having tossed the law aside. We groan that our stomachs hurt, as we eat and drink things He directed His people not to eat and drink. We are anxious about the crushing debt He forbade His people from subjecting themselves to. We die from diseases He taught us to prevent through His basic laws of hygiene. Yes, our freedom in Christ may include eternal life, but what kind of life on earth will we inherit by ignoring His earthly designs?

Has your daily question before the Lord already been answered? Are we mad that something He hates has happened to us? Am I listening?

Thankfully, He is full of mercy and He answers us in our distress. He knows our frailty, which is why He faithfully warns us and why He faithfully forgives us.

Consider His good laws. Consider how He Shepherds. Has He said something to you, personally? A promise? A directive?

The Hebrew word for listening includes the action of obedience. This is where we find the foundation of faith.

Take time to listen and obey.

-Bethany