“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” ~1 Peter 2:9-10
Little things I see or hear often fill me with joy and even wonder…. The intricate care that God has shown in forming all things, yes, even the most insignificant and “useless” things, is something to pause and think on, indeed…especially when great, complicated matters are filling one’s mind…. It reminds me of this verse: “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” ~Psalm 111:1-2
I found this little poem somewhere recently, scratched out in my scrawling hand….My God has declared a covenant. This – this is the gospel! Among the nations he shall be praised; For he is merciful.
Justice is satisfied, Holiness is met; Mercy has triumphed, Love has won.
God has made a covenant eternal, His own he has chosen; Christ has taken up the station, He – he alone – the Mediator.
Come! O, come and hear! Hearing, heed his command! The King is come! Death is overrun and razed!
Salvation is eternal life; Life is to know the Father; To know him is to be born anew; To be re-born is to belong to Christ.
Come and see the Christ! You will see the covenant. Let your heart be changed, Lest you pass by the mercy of God.
Pass by Christ and pass by life; Ignore the Mediator and despise your Maker. Pass by Christ and pass on to death, Where there is only pain and sorrow forever.
Pass by Christ and feel God’s wrath; He has no mercy for you. Pass by Christ and joy you will never know; For God’s covenant you call a lie.
Do you believe? Where is your faith? Are you dead? Beg for life.
He will hear. He has spoken. His covenant stands. His name shall be praised.
“And it shall be said, ‘Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.’ For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” ~Isaiah 57:14-15
“The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” ~Psalm 121:7-8
For me, life is always interesting. And sometimes life is very interesting. And sometimes I can’t figure out what is going on.
Today is a day like that–which is also interesting.
It is a rainy spring evening in the American Midwest. The sky is a soft, pale grey, the air is still quite chilly, the rain is blowing and dripping heavily, and the wind is slipping by as quickly as the time seems to be flying….
I awoke this morning with my head full of the things I had been planning on doing this week–I have a few sewing projects with my name on them all cut out and ready to assemble. But I have not done this because I have felt ill all day long, dull of mind, and weak. Experience has taught me that, in such a state, I surely would have merely bumbled my sewing, made huge messes, and ended up with a less-than-excellently made garment…. When I am in a slightly more “normal” state of mind, I love the process of “building” clothing–especially when it is to be pretty outfits for a specific event…but I simply cannot find it in myself to enjoy this work in the state in which I found myself this morning.
The other foremost thoughts in my mind upon awakening were of my grandfather who lives with us. He had a long day out and about yesterday getting his dislocated hip reset–only to discover that it was quite visibly out of joint again by bedtime. My exhausted father was immediately on the phone with various hospitals and doctors, which resulted in a plan to take him in first thing in the morning. My grandfather has had significant decline since he broke his hip the end of November last year–but the amount and significance of his decline of the past week, in particular, has been difficult to watch. By this afternoon, I learn that he also has a previously undiagnosed heart condition which has (most likely) been somewhat contributing to his current frailty.
Meantime, along with all this and many more thoughts scattering around my dulled consciousness, I am wondering what is going on with me and my indwelling spirochetes, protozoa, bacteria, and viruses, for my symptom sets seem to be shifting here recently and I don’t know what to make of it…but the words of Psalm 121 keep running through my head. When my mind is as grey and befuddled as it is today, I can’t seem to keep focus on any series of thoughts for very long–at least, not to any significant depth. The short Psalms of ascents are especially suited to such days…. Not only have I read Psalm 121 multiple times in my daily Scripture reading over the past week, but the sermon at church yesterday drew heavily from this passage, as well. Indeed, yesterday “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'” (Psalm 122:1). Some of us in my family have been taking turns staying home from church with my grandfather and I had thought that it was my turn to stay home yesterday. But the good providence of God had arranged otherwise–and I also was among those who were assembled together to worship our gracious Lord. Not only that, I was feeling pretty good; so I was doubly blessed yesterday.
Here, then, are a few of my bumbling thoughts from Psalm 121….
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Up, up…looking up the side of a mountain, up to the fortress, up to the stronghold, up to the throne of the King…it is from there, from on high, not from the earth or from any earthly physical power that we are given strength to persevere. Not only that–our God finds and helps each one of us individually…and it is with the same power of him who made heaven and earth that he stretches forth his hand to help us, each one….
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The Shepherd of Israel, the King of the Church, watches over all his own, he keeps each one of us, he knows all our paths–all the time…. In the hour when we are not able to sleep, he is there. In the times when we are given sweet rest, he never slumbers. Always he watches and guards each one of his own….
“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Not only does our Shepherd and King never sleep in his watching over us and strengthening us, he promises he will keep us and bring us safely at last into his presence forever. We are his–our lives are in his hand because we belong to Christ–and he will preserve us through all those things he has ordained for us to pass through, for our good, for the good of his people, for his name’s sake, for his glory……
“Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.” ~Psalm 25:4-5, 15
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” ~Isaiah 45:7
“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” ~Psalm 116:7
The Lord our God is good indeed. Let us trust him for all things, since all things are in his hand, including our own souls, our own peace, our own happiness–yes, our very lives, both here on earth now and in eternity forever, where we shall stand before him clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
It has been a long year for me this time around. It hasn’t been an easy year for me by any means, but I have been mightily blessed by God, day after day after day. I have complained much. I have repented much. I have grieved much. I have laughed much. I have felt as if I have lost much, yet I have been given much. I have found true friends in the Lord. I have been nearly stuck in the mud in Georgia and I have sheltered from a Hoosier tornado. I have ridden a horse in Florida and I have danced in Illinois. I have had turmoils of soul and now I have peace. I have not done what I had wished to do this year. Regardless, I certainly have reason to rejoice in the One who created me, redeemed me, sanctifies me, and before whom I shall someday stand in glory, singing in praise of his majesty and steadfast love. As a new year is entering in, I think of things such as this: “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the people’s praise you!” ~Psalm 67:1-2
This is also my prayer, as in all the paths of life down which I am lead by the good hand of God it is to the glory and honor of him who has saved us; not only that I myself might grow in the knowledge of God and in sanctification, but that the Name of God might be honored among the nations because of his faithfulness in steadfast love shown to his people, his nation, his church. He is the God who is. He is the God who is not silent. He is the God who defines the universe. He is the God who proclaims what is true and what is just. And he is the God who has come and is even now with us, his people, and with whom we shall be unto eternity. This is salvation and this is eternal life.
And this is what my year has been about: the glory of Christ.