Running for my life

In the bible we find an amazing book of poetry that speaks to people living through impossible situations without much support. Early in my recovery I could not read the psalms; they triggered me. I felt irritable, restless and discontent when I read them.

I thought they were a bunch of baloney.

Then one day I was reading about David. My childhood had taught me about David, the giant slayer, but my summer-go-to-grandma’s church Sunday School teachers had definitely skipped over the chapters where King David became an adulterer, a murderer (by proxy), and a pretty unimpressive father. This fuller version of David’s life story completely opened the psalms up to me - since he is attributed with writing many of them. Today I love the psalms. They do not “should” and “ought” me with demands for perfect trust. Today, I read them with more context and a touch of imagination. When I read Psalm 23, I think of David running for his life, chased by his many enemies. I can see his arms pumping, his legs churning, his breath coming in deep and uneven gasps as he cries out, daring to hope but not quite believing, that what he is praying is true. He is disciplining himself to believe in a God who loves him in spite of his world offering little evidence that God does love him OR that he, David, deserves it. Got the picture? Now listen in…

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul...

~ Psalm 23:1-3, NIV

David is a guy who was a “man after God’s own heart” before and after the Bathsheba scandal. When confronted with his sins by Nathan, he confessed and received forgiveness. He did horrible things in his life; he loved God well and true for much of his life also. Complicated. Human. Loved by God.

How about you? Have you the spiritual bandwidth to live with such a complicated reality for David? For yourself? For others?

Mary Finds Favor With God

I am continually struck by the verse in scriptures where Gabriel recounts God’s opinion of Mary.  “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.” (For details, read Luke 1:26-38)

 

Sit with that.  Mary has found favor with God; He KNOWS her; he can pick her out of a crowd.  By her community’s standards Mary was nothing special.  Ordinary really.  Engaged to a carpenter from a community of hardworking families of humble means.

 

More unusual than the message is Mary’s response.  “Cool!” (My translation.)

 

This is downright unheard of.  Moses and Gideon, to name just two, protested God’s call.  Isaiah and Jeremiah certainly didn’t fist pump with delight at their calling.  Saul broke under the pressure; David’s performance was a mixed bag.  And who can forget Solomon?  The guy who asks only for wisdom and discernment finds early “success” only to end up with a killer sexual addiction.

 

Mary responded with humble gratitude.  She was willing to be part of God’s plan for dispensing justice and mercy as she walked with God.  

 

It wasn’t all good news.  Mary’s virgin birth must have caused quite a stir in her village; poor Joseph was in an extremely awkward position.  Mary and Joseph had to live as refugees for a while and, as Simeon so accurately predicted, this news would eventually be like a sword piercing the very soul of Mary.  

 

Read Luke 1:46-55 for a detailed rendering of Mary’s heart song.

 

What do we make of this favored one of God who receives the honor of birthing Jesus but often lives in fear and consternation as a result of her calling?  We call her experience human.  Dramatic to be sure, but I think most people who follow God find the path difficult – a message that doesn’t fit our modern day Jesus marketing materials.  I guess that’s why I struggle with sermons that tell us if we just love Jesus, every day will be sweeter than the day before.  I prefer Mary’s model – she followed God’s call because she knew she could trust God not because it was going to provide her a great salary package and an awesome retirement plan.  As we evaluate our spirituality, I’d encourage us to not get too discouraged if we find ourselves in challenging circumstances because of our inspired way of seeing and efforts to love God, others and self.  That sounds about right.

Was There Ever a King Like This?

After the Israelites gained possession of their new homeland, they looked around and wanted what other tribes had – a king.  They begged and complained and whined and eventually God gave them what they wanted.  Again.

 

First Saul, who turned out to be a mess and then David, a king after God’s own heart but a complicated guy with his own issues.  In the darkness that inevitably followed God’s people demanded and received what they wanted rather than trusting God with what they need.  Eventually God came with a promise (and some needed consequences as well).  Here’s the promise:

 

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it germinate and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater so shall be every word that proceeds from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”. Isaiah 55:10-11

 

Eleven days from now we will celebrate the birth of Christ.  The day will bring its own mix of sacred and profane, joy and heartache if previous holidays are predictive.  But no matter what happens on December 25th, what we can know is this:  the God of our understanding will accomplish that which he has purposed. 

 

When we forget and begin to believe that our own beliefs, longings, wants and needs, demands, and plans are necessary for God to accomplish his own will – we have fallen into the same trap of self-deception that ensnared the Israelites.  Those guys intended to love God and bless others, sometimes.  But mostly they kept stumbling over themselves and their own ideas.  Even David.  Tomorrow we will remind ourselves of why earthly kings are not where we place our hope.