A Psalm for Times Like These

Psalm 40

New International Version (NIV)

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened—
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.

I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.

Psalm 40 11

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

(Amen.)

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Therefore, send not to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  (John Donne, 1624.  Meditation 17.  Devotions upon urgent occasions.)

man riging bell

Such is the reflection of these famous words scripted by John Donne and later repeated by Ernest Hemmingway in one of his most famous works of literature.  The intent of each author is to emphasize the interdependence of humanity; no man can truly live or function as an island.  Whether we live or die, honor God or blaspheme His name, our actions at some point will touch the lives of others around us given time and opportunity.

Case in point:  I’ll never forget that day in Dominicks, a grocery store in the west suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.  It was my day off from work and I was picking up a few groceries before heading home.  I’m not sure why I was dressed up while running a few errands . . . I do recall wearing my nice and warm, long wool coat to fend off the early Spring chill still lingering outside.  Suddenly at the end of the aisle was my good friend’s dad!  He said a cherry “hello” and explained that he was in town visiting for some family occasion.  Mr. Y. always had a gracious way about him:  asking permission to tell you another story or joke before parting ways.  He laughed about me humoring an older person by talking with him or something like that then shared a quick note to give his regards to my husband.  I looked him straight in the eye.  He had no idea.

Immediately Mr. Y knew something was wrong.  I walked closer to him, recognizing that I was about to open my heart in the middle of a grocery store aisle!  My former spouse was discovered in an affair less than 3 weeks before.  Intervention from our church had begun and my life was in turmoil as my heart was still reeling in crisis mode.  It didn’t help that my grandmother had also died and I was in the middle of facilitating the refinancing of our home (not knowing if I would be living there in the future or not).  All of that stuff was about me and my drama.  What I did not expect was the look on Mr. Y’s face when I told him my story.  Do you know that look in the movies when someone has just been punched in the stomach so hard the person could not breathe?  The smile on his face turned to anguish.  He could not speak.

Mr. Y’s reaction showed me the reality of love between the body of believers or those who call Jesus Christ Lord and Savior.  We bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  We know what it means from a human level, a heart level, and a violation of God’s plan for us when a brother in Christ falls.  Craig probably never realized that his actions affected so many people and perhaps did not care.  This was astounding to me.  He was a leader in our Bible church and a gifted Sunday school teacher.  Craig excelled in his work in the mental health field, loved working out, and was quite good at photography.  He loved a good philosophical discussion and we had many.  It is a matter of history that my coming to faith in Christ was facilitated by these very sessions:  Craig helped answer many of my questions and led us to both a seeker-friendly church then a smaller, more intimate body of believers.  I got saved because I dated Craig.  In that Bible church is where I had met Mr. Y and became good friends with his daughter, Deb.  Friends like this are closer than my own family at times.

So where am I going with all of this?  When I am home alone every day, not even leaving the house for days on end, of course it is easy to forget the love of dear friends and family in my life.  Sure the pup looks up at me with soft brown eyes when I walk into the kitchen but it’s just not the same!  My intended beloved, Steve, is away from home a lot and often into the early evening.  Since I don’t feel well most of the time I just stay home if I don’t have an appointment or urgent need for food!  This week was particularly dry in this regard.  As it turns out, most of the week was devoted to adjusting to a new treatment we’re hoping will eliminate the daily seizure-like episodes.  I slept or moped about most of the week anyways; I didn’t notice that I was by myself as the quiet was itself healing medicine.  When I come out of this fog of late and I’m still isolated at home, I must remember that I am totally never alone.

Do you have this confidence Gentle Reader?  We are connected by this blog.  For that I am humbled and honored, that you have taken the time to step closer to me.  We probably resonate some on the issues of life or you would not have chosen to stop by when so many other bloggers have their own yada yada yada to share.  Our connection will be even more meaningful to me if I know that it goes beyond my stories and our simple humanity to the very essence of what gives meaning to life:  a shared faith in God through His son, Jesus Christ.  If you do not yet have the peace, love, and joy that comes from knowing the Lord intimately then I invite you to step before the throne of grace today.  Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and seek Him with a sincere heart through the Bible, His words.  When we repent and invite Jesus into our hearts we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; we are never alone again.  Please tell me what you find, k?

For those of you who share the love of Christ already:  I look forward to meeting with you one day!  Whether in this life or the next, we’re going to have a great time celebrating the glorious riches of a life surrendered to our King.  Standing in the presence of the Lord will wash away our tears and troubles bringing joy beyond what we could ever see today.  May the glimpses of His holiness and glory in the goodness that surrounds each of us sustain you, encourage you, and lift you up until we arrive in our eternal home.  Therein the bell will toll with tales of triumph for all of us.  Such a sweet sweet sound that will be!

Pray without ceasing

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5

The pages of my journal are color coded for quick reference to the various noxious symptoms of this ongoing illness.  This system helps when making medical summary documents or answering questions during doctor appointments.  It looks like every line has either blue (for headache), green (pain), orange (seizure attacks), purple (nightmares or waking terrors), or red (flu-like sickness) today.  Whew!  I had planned to write the hairy details directly from my journal for my blog entry today but I think that just mentioning the rainbow of wacky stuff going on is good enough.  But don’t worry.  I am more stable now.  I slept until 5:00 p.m. today with about 1 1/2 hours awake this morning for breakfast and journaling.  This is crazy stuff man.

And yet every speck of color and it’s accompanying saga are part of the Lord’s perfect plan for my life.  I am sad that Steve has to endure this too.  Yet as a believer, to have a wife with a serious illness is part of the Lord’s Divine plan for his life as well.  How this works is such a mystery!  So for me, if I am to live as Christ then I must take His Words into my heart and allow them to breathe life into my achy body each day.  I must pray without ceasing, give thanks for all the goodness that continues all around me, and know that He can use everything for His glory.  This is a mighty responsibility.  Hope I get it right!

Will this time of illness refine me in some way?  Perhaps.  I know that in another time of my life, repeated trials softened the harsh edges of my personality.  I learned that I have a Heavenly Husband and grew in fellowship with Him.  (Oh how I wish every married woman would know the joy of having a perfect partner in life as manifest in the Lord so she could cut her earthly husband some slack a little more often!)  I also witnessed the amazing provision of my King in what appeared to me as “upside down and backwards” most of the time.  In the end, the pieces of my frazzled life came together perfectly.  I even met my knight in shining aluminum (aka the 24-foot box truck that Steve rented to move me from Illinois to Indiana!) who has shown me love like no other person on this earth.  The Lord restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) so to speak, and I was set to live happily ever after . . .

When there’s a major turn of events in the life of a believer, chances are there’s also a major opportunity to receive something wonderful that could not come any other way.  Who changes his or her personality just because it’s Saturday?  No, it usually takes a major train wreck or two for that to happen!  Because the Lord has shown me His faithfulness, His heart, and blessings even in heartache, I will continue to choose to lean on Him, wait on Him for all things.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the thing which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

These colorful experiences of mine, good and bad are temporary.  Thank goodness!  Allow me to share with you one more passage that brings this hope home in my heart:

You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.  You hall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.  Also with the lute I will praise You — and your faithfulness, O my God!  Psalm 71

We have a Heavenly Father who promises to be with us though all of the trials of our lives and redeem them for eternal glory.  Come to His throne of grace with me Gentle Reader and bring before Him all your weariness, hurts and pain.  He sees them and carries them with us.  And one day they will be washed away when either He comes again for His own or we join Him when our time here is through.

Matisse Tree of Life
Matisse Tree of Life

If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior of your life, well, you are missing out on perfect peace and so much more.  I pray that you will consider following Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.  If you make that decision today, please contact me and tell me all about it.  If you rededicate your love for Him, please tell me that too.  After all, to reach others for Christ is the main reason why this blog is here.  My time of illness and connecting with you today are part of His perfect plan for my life.  They just represent more pretty colors for the threads in the tapestry of my life you might say . . .