Archive for April, 2015

Thanksgiving Psalm

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Blossom

In my last post, I looked at the form of the Lament in the Psalms – the most common form used in the Psalms. I posted an example I wrote a year ago.

Yesterday, I thought it was time I wrote another personal Psalm. However, I wasn’t in the mood for a lament. I’d been trying to remember the bright side of being single lately, and I’d been succeeding. In fact, writing out the lament itself brought me to a happier place.

So instead, I decided to write a Thanksgiving Psalm. And I’d focus on the wonderful home that I feel was a gift from God.

Here’s the form of a Thanksgiving Psalm:

I. Introduction

I will exalt you, O Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
— Psalm 30:1

II. Call to Praise

Let the redeemed of the Lord say this –
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
— Psalm 107:2-3

III. Account
A. Crisis in Retrospect

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
— Psalm 116:3

B. Deliverance
1. I called.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, save me!”
— Psalm 116:4

2. You heard and you intervened.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
–Psalm 30:11

IV. Praise

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.
Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.
— Psalm 107:31-32

So that’s the basic form.

My challenge is this: Try using this form, along with parallelism. (Repeat yourself!)

It’s a lovely way to remind yourself what God has done.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday morning. It’s not eloquent – just an example of how you can use this form to recount something God has done for you.

God is good.
It is always worth it to seek Him.

Praise the Lord for his kindness;
praise Him for noticing our needs and longings.
Notice the Lord’s compassion,
for He notices us.

I was abandoned and alone,
in debt after divorce,
a single mom with an empty nest,
pouring money into rent,
with a guest room that was never used,
with furniture for a family I used to have.

I asked the Lord if I should look for a home to buy,
or look elsewhere for a job?
Should I stay where I’d healed after my divorce
or look further afield for something new?

He answered to enlarge the place of my tent
and spread my tent curtains wide.

I thought I found a home—
farther from my church than I’d wanted,
but surely the best I could afford?
It didn’t have a view,
but couldn’t being nice inside make up for that?
Then it fell through, after inspections were done.
I had to start all over again.

Then I saw this place, and looked out on a lake.
The first place kept me busy
while waiting for the gift you had for me.

And every day I look out on my lake
and my soul is soothed.

I’m near my church family,
and the whole church helped me move.
Now a Small Group meets in my home,
and I’ve had more visitors than my last two homes combined.
Walking by my lake
restored my health after my stroke.
The birds and ever-changing plant growth
constantly speak of your loving care.

Father, I thank You for giving me the disappointment
that led to the perfect timing of the home you had for me.
Thank You for knowing what I needed in my life
for this time.
Thank You for giving me much more than I asked for
and always dealing with me with love.
Thank You for the egrets and the great blue heron,
the robins, blue jays, woodpeckers, and cardinals.
Thank You for the enticement to walk
and the soothing lap of the lake.
Thank You for Spring blossoms,
Summer growth,
Autumn splendor,
and Winter whiteness.
Thank You that Your gifts never run out
and You are good.

A Lament for Love

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Last year, I got to lead a Small Group going through the Psalms, using what I learned from a Psalms class at Biola University 30 years ago.

It touches my life when I try to use the ideas to write my own psalm-prayers.

The first idea is to use parallelism:
For each line, I repeat myself;
each thought, I express in another way.

You get the idea!

One of the most common forms used in the Psalms is a Lament. I’ve heard Christians list necessary components of prayer. They are usually along the lines of Adoration, Confession, Thanks, Intercession. For me, it gives new energy to try to pray in the form of a Lament.

Here are the parts of a Lament. I’ll give examples from several different Psalms. Every Lament does not necessarily have every single part.

1. Address to God

Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
— Psalm 4:1

2. Lament or complaint.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2

3. Review of God’s Help (Confession of Trust).

But you are a shield around me, O Lord;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the Lord I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.
Selah
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
— Psalm 3: 3-6

4. Petition.

Arise, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
— Psalm 3:7

5. Words of Assurance.

For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
— Psalm 5:12

6. Vow to Praise.

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness
and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
— Psalm 7:17

I was looking back over my journal, and a bit more than a year ago, before I briefly dated someone, I wrote a Lament-Prayer about my longing for love. Now that Spring is in the air, that raises a chord with me again.

So I offer the following Lament for Love. I know there are many out there who will echo my prayer. For those who already have a deep love in your life, let this simply be a suggestion of a form to try using in your prayers.

Hear my voice, O Lord!
I need you more than I even realize.
You know the future;
your guidance is best.
I want to follow your leading;
I want your plans for me to come to pass.
I don’t want to be swayed by my own emotions or selfishness or lust;
I want to follow your way.

Lord, I’m confused about what to do.
I’m so inexperienced, so naïve and vulnerable.
It’s been 10 years since I had sex;
my body’s longing for physical affection.
I’m hungry for affirmation,
so I will be easily swayed.
And I do feel lonely and inadequate.
Why did my beloved reject me?
I wonder if I am adequate
— and he told me I was not.
I drenched my bed with weeping
and my sobs were uncountable.
When any man is kind to me,
it brings tears to my eyes.
My heart is vulnerable
and easily swayed.

But you, O Lord, have been with me in the wilderness.
You have lavished your love on me.
You have made me feel loved;
you have held me in my most pained moments.

Please, Lord, give me wisdom!
Show me the way I should go.
Bring a man into my life who loves you truly
and who knows how to be affectionate toward me.
Bring someone who will want to serve you together with me,
and make it clear this is from you.

Surely your plans for me are good, O Lord.
Your lovingkindness is inexhaustible.
No one is as trustworthy as you.
Your faithfulness endures forever.

When You bring a great love into my life,
I will sing thanks to you.
I will tell the world how much you have done;
I will sing of your kindness.

Living in the Present, Gratitude, and Contentment

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Bloom

A few weeks ago, I was thrown for a loop when my son told me he’s applied to graduate a semester early, next January instead of a year from June.

That should be great news, right? But then after a couple days it hit me: I’m living alone now, but then I will be truly alone. My older son hasn’t even visited since he graduated from college.

Since then, it’s occurred to me that it could be worse: He could move back in with me. But my main thinking was that with all due respect, married people who complain about Empty Nest Syndrome don’t have a clue what a *truly* empty nest is like.

So I was having trouble thinking that way, and I’ve written about that already. But I thought it was funny what finally snapped me out of it and had me happy and content and joyful: I cleaned my bathroom!

It was the day before Easter. It was my day off, and I was having a super-productive day. As I cleaned my bathroom, I couldn’t help but notice how *much much much* more pleasant this task was than it used to be when I was married.

There’s a verse in Proverbs about how when the ox is gone, the stable is clean, but from the strength of the ox comes an abundant harvest. Married people reading this, the ox is well worth it! I don’t argue with that for a second.

However, as a single person, with no ox in the stable? Well, why not rejoice in the clean stable?!!

A wise teacher, Christel Nani, has pointed out that a good way to live in the present is to practice gratitude. When you’re thankful for the present, you’re not filled with regret or nostalgia about the past, and you’re not worrying or wishing for the future.

I think besides being grateful, we can actively enjoy things that we won’t be able to do so easily if our circumstances change — like clean the bathroom!

Later that same evening, I played Brahm’s Requiem — about Resurrection — and sang along to the alto part. I could sing as loudly as I wished, and it didn’t bother a soul. I could pour out my heart in praise to God, and not worry about bothering anyone.

Today’s my day off, and I decided to enjoy my wonderful lake. I walked around it and took some pictures of the beginning blossoms. I love my condo-by-the-lake. The truth is, if I ever marry again, I will probably want to live somewhere larger. It’s perfect for a single person, and fits my son well when he’s in town — but if my family were bigger, I’d probably want a bigger place.

So I am thankful that *today* I can enjoy the benefits of this wonderful home by taking a walk and enjoying the blossoms.

Tonight, I’m going to go to a gaming group and play some Eurogames. I love doing it, but it does take several hours on a Friday night. I love hanging around super smart people and exercising our brains and having a great time. Tonight I’m looking forward to listening to an audiobook during the long drive there and back, as well.

And the truth is, if I were in a relationship, I might not want to give so much time to this activity I enjoy so much. While I’m single, though? No problem!

A couple of years after my husband left me, someone made the mistake of complaining to me that her husband didn’t give her sex often enough. Oh my, I was angry with her! Please don’t remind me what I’m missing! By the same token, though, married people, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that your spouse won’t necessarily always be around. There are some wonderful things about having that person in your life today, even if they aren’t perfect. And who is?

So that’s my reminder to myself for today. To help with contentment — rather than thinking about what you don’t have and wish for, especially look for things you are privileged to enjoy *now* that you won’t necessarily be able to enjoy if your life changes.