Give Ear

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing” ( Psalm 5:1 NRSV).

When someone listens, really listens to you, they “give ear” to you. They “give heed” to you.

Isn’t it remarkable that God will listen to us in that way?

Sometimes my prayers are made of words. Sometimes my prayers are made of sighs. Sometimes my prayers are made of a word here, a sigh there.

Isn’t it remarkable that God will listen, really listen to us whether our prayers are made of words, sighs, or both?

Thank you, loving Father, for giving ear. Thank you for giving heed. How many times have you listened to my words? How many times have you listened to my sighs? Thank you.

Wrestling with Psalms

Reading a psalm is a part of my morning prayer liturgy. Some days the reading is refreshing. Other days it is soothing. And then there are those rare days when the reading is upsetting, troubling, or even downright disturbing.

Yesterday was one of those days. I wrestled with the reading all day long. I was upset, troubled, and disturbed. The last thing I did last night before falling asleep was to share with God my thoughts about the reading.

Though I have read that particular psalm repeatedly, I do not recall ever being so disturbed by it. Perhaps my being surrounded by so much death and disease recently was the reason for my reaction.

Bottom line, I am thankful to have had this day-long conversation with God even though I can’t say it was a pleasant experience. And I’m thankful for a God who is so patient with me as to listen to my heart and my words.

Giving Back

“What can I give back to the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?” Psalm 116:12 CEB

Finding this question in the middle of my Psalm of the day made it impossible for me to quickly read and move on with my day.

While I realize I can never repay God for all God has done; at the same time, I hope I never stop asking this question.

It seems the natural reaction to an awareness of all the goodness God has done is to ponder how to give back.

So if I stop asking this question, perhaps I need to seriously consider whether I have lost my awareness of how good God has been.

God has been so good. What can I give back?

Confession

Some days the last thing reading the Psalms brings me is comfort.

So. Much. Violence.

Sometimes I am tempted to stop reading altogether.

But I read on.

Then come those days when I recognize I have violence in my own heart.

And on those days, I find comfort in the Psalms.

Dreams

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Psalm 126:1-4

Jewish pilgrims making their way to the temple sang “psalms of ascent” (Psalms 120-134) to prepare for worship. Psalm 126 was a psalm of ascent celebrating renewal after a season of barrenness. They had been through a difficult time, whether from famine, assault, plague, or captivity; but now it was time to dream again. This song recalled God’s faithfulness to bring them through the time of trial and encouraged the pilgrims to dream again about what the future could look like.

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev” was the poetic vision statement of their dreams for the future.

Remember how Martin Luther King cast a vision for the future in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”

Like the ancient pilgrims and other visionaries, churches need to dream. Lafayette needs to recall, even celebrate God’s faithfulness in leading us during difficult times. We need to dream about what the future could look like with God leading us and doing great things among us.

Do you have a dream?

I encourage you to dream. Maybe you will dream in creative, poetic language like the psalmist. Maybe you will dream in hopeful word pictures like Dr. King. Whatever your style, I urge you to cast a vision of what your church can look like in the years to come.

Maybe starting with these words will help stimulate your creativity—

Restore our church’s fortunes, Lord, like….

I have a dream that at our church….

May God’s faithfulness inspire creative dreaming as you seek God’s vision for what your church can look like in the years to come.

To God be the glory!

And enjoy your grandchildren!

Psalm 128

A Pilgrim Song

1-2 All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming.
Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!

3-4 Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes,
your household lush as a vineyard,
The children around your table
as fresh and promising as young olive shoots.
Stand in awe of God’s Yes.
Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

5-6 Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem
every day of your life.
And enjoy your grandchildren.
Peace to Israel!

The Prayer of my Heart

Psalm 127

A Pilgrim Song of Solomon

1-2 If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

3-5 Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.