Psalm 103

My gift to Link on his last birthday was new headphones.  I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit for me because I was tired of hearing the sounds coming from whatever device he was using at the time.  Link would take the headphones and stretch them out as wide as he could before he put them on his head.  I warned him that doing so would cause them to break… and I warned him… and I warned him.  Not even two weeks after his birthday he broke the headphones.  My initial reaction was “I told you so.” However, almost immediately I thought, “You knew this was probably going to happen and he feels bad about it, so show him grace.”

Link is a sensitive soul, so my potentially being angry with him weighed on him.  When he saw I wasn’t mad he gave me this huge hug.  It was super sweet.  I imagine in that moment his thoughts were about how much his dad loved him and thankful he was that, while he messed up, that didn’t stop him from being loved.

I feel like Link in that moment when I read Psalm 103.  Not only does God forgive us in the innumerable ways that we fail every day, but he is also the creator and sustainer of all life.  In verses 3-5 we see the benefits that come from Him:

3who forgives all your sins

    and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit

    and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

How our God loves us is unfathomable, amazing, and something to never be taken for granted.

I said Link is a sensitive soul.  That is one of the reasons I didn’t come down hard on him for breaking his headphones.  I might have handled that differently with my other children because they are all different and Kasey and I understand them better than anyone because we live with them.  If I understand my children well from just living with them, how much more so does God know us?

As a father has compassion on his children,

    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

    he remembers that we are dust.

The God who created us knows us on a level much deeper than even I could know with my own children.  He knows our innermost being to the core of how we were formed.  He can, and does, care for us on an intimate level.  His love for us, even in our failures, is perfect.

My hope is that, like verse 20-22, I will sing praise to the Lord in all things and at all times because He is worthy.

Psalm 81

I have been aware that the 4th of July is just around the corner for almost a week now. Why am I so keenly aware of the upcoming celebration of our nation’s independence you ask? The answer is a simple one, the people in the surrounding neighborhoods began the firework shows early. I know this really bothers some people, but I find it amusing. It seems they start earlier and earlier each year. Last Thursday, I heard a rather large firework go off as I was taking my garbage to the street at 7:30 AM. Yes… I heard fireworks before a normal school day would have even started. I guess people just love a celebration, especially a noisy one!

In the first half of Psalm 81, we have the Psalmist encouraging the people to celebrate (the noisy kind)! It encourages the people to party like it is the day of the feast after the new moon, with all the music and pageantry. Why? Because of how good the Lord is. That is all! Not because it is a holiday or that something extravagant has happened but simply because of how God has already proven to be faithful because of the history of Israel. The Psalmist recounts the amazing stories of Jacob, Joseph, and the freedom from the bondgage in Egypt. It is a powerful reminder that it does not have to be Easter or Christmas for us to celebrate the God who rules over all things and cares for His people.

We celebrate the 4th of July as a reminder that we have freedoms that are not found in all places on this planet.  It causes us to reflect on, or at least remind us, that we are blessed each and every day in ways we probably take for granted.  The second half of this Psalm (verses 8-16) help us understand why we should be singing for joy to God regularly… because he is, and has been, doing things for us we take for granted!  When we attribute to God his proper praise and place nothing before him there is no enemy that can’t be subdued (verse 14) and those who oppose the chosen of the Lord will be properly punished (verse 15).  As for God’s people?  Well, they will be provided in ways they cannot imagine (verse 16).  

I hope everyone has a fun, relaxing, and safe 4th of July this year.  I also hope we all take time each and every day to celebrate our God who has blessed us beyond measure.

Psalm 55

One of my favorite shows on television is Big Brother. If you are not familiar with this program, the basic premise is that a bunch of strangers are placed into a house full of cameras, are not allowed to leave, compete in competitions, and week by week, vote a member of the house out until there is just one person left standing. One of the most difficult aspects of the show is being stuck in the same house for potentially 3 months and not being able to leave…I think we all can appreciate how hard that is at this point in quarantine! One of the key elements of the game are the “alliances” where portions of the house band together to vote others out. The fun ensues when alliances break up or eventually have to turn on each other because, let’s face it, only one person can win.

Not only do I love Big Brother, but my kids do, my friends do, and their kids do. So when we are all together the kids will play their own version of Big Brother with games, voting, and chaos. The problem is that eventually you have to vote people out. Since they are all friends or siblings, people feel betrayed immediately. I don’t know that they have ever played a game of Big Brother where someone, or multiple someones, didn’t cry. It got to the point that when we all got together we had to ban Big Brother so we didn’t have to deal with the fall out.

People do not like it when they feel as though someone they are close with turns on them.

In Psalm 55, we can read and really feel the hurt David is going though because of the betrayal of a friend. In verse 1-11 we can see how in anguish he is over his situation. The hardest part to read is verse 12-14. David is remembering the good times he had with this friend, even walking through the house of God with them. When a friend does something that hurts us, it is hard to wrap our minds around. It flips so many things! A place in your heart that was used for love becomes bitter. Good memories become bad ones. A person you would turn to now becomes someone you avoid.

I dare say we have all been there at some point in our life in one fashion or another.

Verses 15-22 provide a template for dealing with such pain.  We lean not on our own understanding but on that of the Lord.  We trust not in our anger but in the God who hears our distress.  We do not seek vengeance for ourselves because we serve the One who judges the quick and dead.

We live in a world broken by sin so we should not be surprised when people let us down. It will happen, and it will hurt. There is only one thing we can do, and it is found in the last part of the last verse…“But as for me, I trust in you”.

Trust in the Lord in all things.

Psalm 31

I had to unplug the last couple of weeks.  I didn’t move out into the woods with no cell signal or take one of those trips celebrities and CEOs do to the desert where they don’t even speak for multiple days.  I just tried really hard to stay off social media and read only the vital news that was curated and not “breaking” or “this just in” type of reporting that throws information around before it is fully formed.  Why would I do this?  I did it because it felt like the walls were slowly moving in on me.  It felt like there were fires all around me and I didn’t even have one bucket of water.

When I read Psalm 31 I feel a kindred spirit with David.  I don’t doubt that his personal situation (his enemies were always coming for him and his life was literally in mortal peril) was far more serious than my own, but his feelings resonated with me.  David has feelings of distress, anguish, grief, and sorrow.  He relates himself to “broken pottery” while dealing with all this affliction.  He even feels like a burden to those around him.  What is a person to do in moments like these?

It is impossible to read this Psalm and not have verse 5 jump off of the page.  David in this time of despair goes to the only place he can find comfort, his God.  His cry is that he will place everything into the hands of the Lord.  Of course we will see this echoed in the words of Jesus as his last words upon the cross.  As a sinless Savior was crucified without cause the words he spoke were the same as David penned as he felt helpless.  We can, in the same way, cry out when it feels like the walls are closing in on us.  

One of the best benefits of unplugging was a re-shifting of my eyes towards the God who loves me.  He is faithful and trustworthy.  He is our rock and our salvation.  This Psalm is a reminder that we all go through the ringer from time to time, but our God is always there.

Psalm 19

The family and I floated the river this weekend, and it was the first time that we had taken the boys on such an adventure.  Link is still young, and I wasn’t sure he would be up for the length of the endeavor, while my main concern with Lex revolved around if he would be interested in something that wasn’t a video game (in his defense, he gets that from his old man).  To my delight, my concerns were unfounded!

It turns out that being cooped up for months made my kids want to go outside.  Once there, I did not have to do much convincing about what the experience was going to be like.  The sky was clear, the grass lush green, and nature was all around.  It was powerful, even more powerful than normal if that is even possible.  

It would feel silly to say you could hear it calling out to us, except we have the Bible and passages like Psalm 19 that let us know that nature and the heavens, while “silent”, they declare, proclaim, and pour forth speech about the glory of God.  The beauty of God’s creation stood in stark contrast to the walls and ceiling that have almost felt like a cage since quarantine began.  I was reminded that even if I were to stay in my house forever, the heavens would declare the truth of God Almighty.

It was a beautiful day, the river was up so we didn’t have to paddle too hard, and there was wildlife all around.  One thing that was unavoidable all day was the sun.  We all applied sunscreen, wore hats, and tried to find what little shade we could as we slowly navigated the water.  We were constantly dipping our feet in the water or splashing some on our backs in an attempt to find some relief.  No matter what we did, the sun was constantly reminding us it was there.

In verses 4-6, we see sun used as a metaphor for the glory of God.  The one that brings life to all things.  The one that sustains all things.  And just how we felt on the kayak, there is NOTHING that can hide from it.  It is comforting knowing that there is a force working for good that is so powerful, so expansive, and so perfect.  A comfort I desperately need with the state of our country and world at large.  

To say there is a lot going on in our world is an understatement.  I would never say we should remove ourselves from our responsibility in those larger conversations, but I do believe it would do us all a little good to turn off the television, close our social media, and step outside and soak some of the wonder that God has created so that we are reminded about whom we serve and all that God as done for us.

Verses 7-14 talk about the goodness of the law and transgressions of man, but those are an adventure for another day!

Psalm 2

At my house, we eat ice cream out of coffee mugs.  I don’t know where that tradition started, but I’m sure it was from my wife because I don’t remember ever doing it until recently.  There are benefits from this practice! You eat less ice cream, and a coffee mug takes up less space in the dishwasher than a whole bowl.  Look for the silver linings, right?

The other day I went to get some ice cream out for the kids and realized we were out.  By my calculations, we should have had enough for at least two more servings, maybe more.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on where it had all gone, but then it hit me…Kasey and I had left the kids home alone one afternoon for a date and they asked if they could have ice cream!  Now, having an almost 16 year old in the house has one major benefit, FREE BABYSITTING!  The downside to having one of your offspring watch the others is that there is not as much oversight as when you have an outside presence.  There becomes a grab for power and kids push the limits to see what they can get and what they can get away with.  

In this case, the power grab was a FULL BOWL of ice cream over a coffee mug for both of the boys.  I’m sure Link didn’t complain as scoop upon scoop was dropped into his bowl by his older brother.  Whenever there is a perceived vacuum of power, there will naturally be those who try to swoop in a take it.

In Psalm 2, we have a royal psalm composed for the coronation of Davidic kings.  In verses 1-3, we see that there are those angling and plotting for power.  At this time, and throughout history, when there was a transition of leadership of a nation there are those that will seek to grab as much power as they can…like a delicious, full bowl of ice cream.  I wish I could say that this does not happen in this day and age, but greed and lust for power are part of the sin nature of man that will not be relinquished until the Lord comes again.  

My absolute favorite part of this Psalm are verses 4-6.  While there are those that plot and scheme, we have the Lord on his throne “scoffing” at those struggling for power that is not eternal and trinkets that will not last.  I often need to be reminded of the fact that the Mighty God is not impressed by any title or power that man might gain on Earth.  I need to be reminded because my selfish desire is to gain that fame, power, or notoriety.  I need to be reminded because in my grab for power I try to push the King off His rightful throne. I need to be reminded because the evil one will tell me, “you will never be good enough” or “you mean nothing”.  I need to be reminded that no title or amount of power makes me any more or less created in the image of God.

The last part of the last verse says “blessed are all who take refuge in him.”  Some days this is all I can cling to in this lost and dying world.  There is comfort in being able to find refuge at the throne of the Most High.  There is peace that passes all understanding being seated with the Great Healer.  There is excitement being in the presence of the artist that created all we know. 

No matter what is happening, it is good to know that God is on His throne and I can find peace there.