Have you ever turned a corner in your life and been totally surprised by what you found? There are wonderful stories about this, where people have walked into blessings beyond their wildest dreams: finances, relationships, a new job, etc. There are other stories that aren’t so wonderful. These are the corners you turn and find a job loss, a broken relationship, an illness, etc.
Our family has turned the corner to find one of these such things. It’s not fun, at all, but…I told someone this week that even though we had no clue what was around the corner, God was both turning the corner with us, and already there to meet us.
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How do we pray during these kinds of seasons?
How do we talk to God when things become chaotic and out of control?
What’s our plan for when we feel very far away from God?
Enter stage left…the Psalms.
The Psalms are…
– the prayer book for a community of people
– words to use when your own words are hard to say or hard to find
– liturgy in good and bad seasons
– some kind of consistency when life is far from consistent
Some have called the Psalms the great Hymnbook of the Bible.
They are among the oldest poems in the world.
They can be, for those who want them to be, a window into the bright lights and the dark corners of the soul.
Often times, they point beyond present realities, while still hitting home so deeply; like a good and well written song, they say more than the author may have even intended them to say.
NTW said this about the Psalms: “It seems wisest to think of the Psalms, in their present forms, being collected and shaped in the time of the Exile in Babylon (6th Century BC). When paradoxically, the people who found it unthinkable to sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land may have found that actually singing those songs (and writing some new ones) was one of the few things that kept them sane and gave them hope.”
What’s he trying to say?
The Psalms are poems and songs that do more than you think they can do, touch deeper than you think you needed, say more than you even knew you needed to hear.
For the next few weeks this summer, we’ll dive into a few of these songs/poems and see what they say, how they impact us, and what God does with and through them.
We’re calling this series, Village Songs, because these are songs for and from a community. Our hope is that 1) we understand what they have to say on the surface, and 2) they spur us on to sing our own songs to God – our own raw, real and redemptive songs to God.
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For today, I’d like us to briefly look at Psalm 61.
King David wrote this song. We’re not sure the context or the setting, but we know one thing for sure, it was written from a deep love for God that came out of great adversity and struggle.
It has two running themes in it…
– A prayer for protection (from God)
– A declaration of confidence (in God)
Let’s read it and see where we land:
1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe. 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. 5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations. 7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. 8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.
We can split this Psalm up in 3 ways with 3 words:
ASK AKNOWLEDGE ARRIVE
We read words like this…
Hear me / Listen to me / Lead me / I long for you
David is pouring his heart out. We don’t know exactly why, but we know he is struggling.
The words ‘from the ends of the earth’are a metaphor for distance – the distance between him and God.
Think of some metaphors you use that aren’t true, but reflect the truth about how you’re feeling.
Life is like a roller coaster
My home feels like a prison (said many 14 year old girls)
The DVP is always a parking lot (ok, this might be real)
He/She is a walking dictionary
All of these aren’t real, but they’re real to you.
Because David truly and deeply feels far from God…he has the confidence to ask him…
Hear me GOD Listen to me GOD
As a kid I used to try and get my mom’s attention by moving her chin towards me. It was probably rude, but I just wanted my mom to look at me when I was talking to her. Guess who does that to me now? My daughter.
Lead me…to the ROCK that is HIGHER than I.
If we can just get to this point in our lives at every moment and every turn.
God you’re the ROCK
God you’re stronger
God I’m lower
God you’re higher
These are song lyrics you can sing no matter what year it is, what era, what culture, what circumstance – they ring true forever.
The Psalmist moves from the question to the reason why he’s asking God this question.
YOU have been YOU have heard YOU have given
Sometimes…especially when praying, you have to look back in order to move forward.
David is reminding God…but really he’s reminding himself…that God was and is his refuge, his strength, his shelter…that God has heard his vows and promises…and that God has given him a story to be part of (heritage).
Let me tell you, that when I pray these days, as much as I’m asking God to do a miracle, I’m reminding ourselves that He’s already done so much in my life.
Why? 2 reasons:
– So we can believe that God can do it.
– So we’re reminded that God’s always been with us and always will.
Our prayers and songs all have to land somewhere.
David shows us, in 61, and elsewhere, that his songs always end with praise and a resettling of his faith in God.
The point of this series is more for application than it is for knowledge.
Our hope is that we can learn to use the Psalms as a prayer book this summer…and long after that.
Will you take up this challenge with me?
Read the Psalms for the next 90 days.
6 days a week
2 psalms a day
By the end of the summer (Sept 21) we would have read through the Psalms together.
As we do that, may we be led to the ROCK who is higher than I.
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Reading Plan example for week one…
Day 1: Morning – Psalm 1 Evening – Psalm 2 Day 2: Morning – Psalm 3 Evening – Psalm 4 Day 3: Morning – Psalm 5 Evening – Psalm 6 Day 4: Morning – Psalm 7 Evening – Psalm 8 Day 5: Morning – Psalm 9 Evening – Psalm 10 Day 6: Morning – Psalm 11 Evening – Psalm 12 Day 7: BREAK
Continue this pattern through out the summer until you reach September 21 or Psalm 150.
Wow, if you missed Father’s Day at The Village, you really did miss something special.
Thalita Murray sat down with two dads, Jason Penny and James Boyle for a conversation about being a Dad, following Jesus, and how those two things may coincide.
She asked some important questions. We’ve listed them below for you to think through them on your own. Instead of trying to recap all their responses, we’ve simply summarized some of their thoughts.
1. What was your initial experience into parenthood like?
2. How did fatherhood impact your faith journey? Your general world view?
3. Is there a piece of scripture that speaks to you and your fatherhood journey?
4. Have you had a father figure in your life who is/was special to you?
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received pertaining to being a parent? If you haven’t received any, what’s YOUR best piece of advice?
If there was a competition on how one gets into parenting, James kind of won this battle. Jason accepted his loss) His story is very unique as it involves adoption and losing his first wife all within a matter of four months. He and Dawn had adopted Isaac from Ethiopia. Four months later, Dawn passed away. This left James as a widow and single dad.
Fast forward a couple of years when James and Joanne marry and blend two families, now with three kids between them, they have a surprise of their lives and have a forth child together. Wild.
That’s quite a story to walk through and learn through. But that’s not to say that Jason’s more traditional route to parenting comes without challenges. All parenting does. Don’t we know it.
He says his experience was…“Crazy. Like most people I figured as a relatively competent adult I could figure out this parenting thing. I knew it would be hard but I thought it couldn’t be that hard. I was wrong. It was very very hard. They’re just so tiny and they’re like little time bombs that can’t speak English and you just have to figure it out. I used to have very specific ideas in mind about the right way to parent and now I just say, you know your own kid best so just follow your instincts. It’s like the 10, 000 idea. You’ve put the time in, so you know what works and what doesn’t.”
Some more things we heard from James were…
– It’s not easy to blend families. It’s always a work in progress. He’s trying his best, failing at times, hopefully getting better as time goes on.
– James was honest about his struggles as dad, and how he fights being too direct and is working on being patient.
– The scripture he’s held onto has been Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, he will make your paths straight.” James acknowledged that he needs Jesus in his life to be a better dad and husband.
Some more things we hear from Jason were…
– Having kids that now ask questions like “Why can’t I see God?” and “Where is Heaven?” have really thrown him for an unexpected loop. He likes to have clear answers for his kids because he knows those are the answers he resonates with. But often he might have to say, “I’m not sure about that, but I do know that Jesus loves us and cares about us so much that he’ll never leave us.” And their ability, and possibly innocence, inspires him because they just believe.
– The scripture he holds to is…Mark 10:13-16. Here we see Jesus receiving children and saying “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And for him this is a reminder of how he ought to approach Jesus; with imagination, implicit belief, the lack of intellectual pride, a sense of living in the moment and a special adaption to receiving. Watching his kids grow up in church and learn about Jesus has reshaped how he wants to approach his own faith journey.
– Jason says that his relationship with his wife must be a priority. It can only help his relationship with his kids. And his kids must learn from he and his wife about what it means to love and respect your spouse.
As you can see, there was lots to take home. This is only a snippet. Remember this, we are all ‘becoming’ something: Fathers, Mothers, Husbands, Wives, Friends, Singles, and of course, followers of Jesus. We’re not yet where we should or can be, but hopefully we’re a little further ahead than when we started.
Last thing about a day for Fathers & Mothers: It’s really a day to celebrate INFLUENCE. We all can have a good influence in others, especially those younger than we are. If you’re a parent, this may be obvious, but don’t think that you have to be a parent to be a person of influence. Follow God’s lead in your life and be present to those he leads you to. It’s amazing what kind of ‘influence’ you can have on others.
This week we finished up our series, The Middle. We did so with some video teaching from Mark Comer’s talk at The Meeting House (taken from their Jesus People series).
If you missed it, you’ll wanna watch it. If you were there, you may wanna watch it again. (video below)
Here are a few things that resonated so well:
As we observe the ways of Jesus, his life, his ministry, his relationships, we notice something very interesting – Jesus was never in a hurry. If we want to know him more, if we want him in the middle of our lives, and if we want to be in the middle of his love and mission, we too must slow down.
As we walked through this series, we encouraged our community to invite God to be in the middle of our confusion & crapp-i-ness, in the middle of our interruptions, and in the middle of our sickness. For that to happen, we must always be inviting Jesus to be in the middle of our lives, our hearts, and our relationships.
Some things Mark Comer said are worth reflecting on:
Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life (a Dallas Willard quote).
We either believe the lie that money and stuff makes us happy or we don’t.
What are you doing to slow down?
shut off your phone for extended periods?
stop at stop signs?
don’t rush to the shortest line at the grocery store?
sit down for more than five minutes to have a meal?
breath deeply a few times a day?
Slowing down, along with solitude, sabbath and simplicity, are key disciplines to following Jesus.
When we fill every single space we have with our phone, the TV, a google search, a text, a glance at the news, etc, we are closing up portals that used to be open for prayer or awareness. So many missed opportunities to be with God or with others, simply because we fill up our space and time.
For some reason, we always feel like we have no time – like we’re in a hurry. This is a problem.
Make sure to set aside a few minutes, to breath, think, pray, and invite Jesus to be in the Middle of your life and heart. It is never time lost, but rather, time invested.