Day 31

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

   Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

   then lead me on the eternal path! Psalm 139:23-24

I appreciate the psalmist’s trust in a God who he can ask to examine him and test him.  I admire a man who is willing to be led.  I respect a person who can acknowledge their anxiety.  I wonder what it took for him to admit the possibility of idolatry while conversing with holy God.

Today, see what you can confess, acknowledge, admit, and dare to be tested on.  


Day 30

If only, God, you would kill the wicked!

   If only murderers would get away from me—

  the people who talk about you, but only for wicked schemes;

       the people who are your enemies,

       who use your name as if it were of no significance.

Don’t I hate everyone who hates you?

   Don’t I despise those who attack you?

Yes, I hate them—through and through!

   They’ve become my enemies too.

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

   Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

   then lead me on the eternal path! Psalm 139:18-24 CEB

It really does kind of freak me out to think about calling another person wicked.  I haven’t always felt this way.  Years ago, I thought naming evil was practically a spiritual discipline.  What changed my mind? I got to know more people.

Today, I know a very angry young woman who all the time tells people how she doesn’t believe in God.  She does naughty things too – at least, naughty by the standards of the faith traditions I was raised in.  I actually do not condone any of her choices.  But I also know her circumstances.  I know the cesspool of addiction, neglect and abuse she grew up in.  I’m not ready to wave the white flag and give up on her just yet.  I’m not at all sure that God would see her as an enemy – in fact, that just doesn’t make sense at all in the scenario.

I also know a guy who is in jail.  And he did what they accused him of – and it’s naughty.  Taken outside of any context, I’m all for society handing out consequences for that sort of behavior.  But I don’t have the luxury of judging outside of context.  I know him.  He’s a man who made some really poor choices in the midst of active addiction.  Do I suggest he have no consequences for his actions?  Absolutely not!  But I support consequences because this is the work that supports recovery:  consequences are good for people in active addiction.  I do not want him smited; I do not think he is wicked; in fact, I quite like him.  I want what’s in his best interest AND the best interest of community.

So here’s what I’m thinking about enemies and such.  Maybe we work hard to hate what God hates, within the limits of loving how God loves.  So I can hate acts that stifle the presence of the kingdom of God on earth, but I cannot violate my own commitment to imitating Christ.  Think on this today and see where it leads.


Day 29

Who are the wicked?

It seems to me that instead of thinking about enemies as people who thwart my plans or simply aggravate me, I need a more weighty measure before slapping that term on another.

An enemy is someone who consciously and intentionally sets out to thwart God’s purposes (not mine).  And, seeing as how God’s purposes are often too big for me to understand, I better be pretty darn careful before I start jumping to conclusions about who the enemy is (or is not).

If only, God, you would kill the wicked!

   If only murderers would get away from me—

  the people who talk about you, but only for wicked schemes;

       the people who are your enemies,

       who use your name as if it were of no significance.

Don’t I hate everyone who hates you?

   Don’t I despise those who attack you?

Yes, I hate them—through and through!

   They’ve become my enemies too.

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

   Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

   then lead me on the eternal path! Psalm 139:18-24 CEB


Gosh, I guess what I’m saying is that one thing that I take away from the 139th Psalm is this – judgment is not on my “to do” list.  This isn’t the same thing as saying I shouldn’t use discernment, seek wisdom and practice making good choices about who I hang out with…but maybe I just need to be very careful with how I try to make application of these verses in my own life.  Tomorrow, I’ll unpack that a bit.


Day 28

Let’s take a few moments today to figure out who an enemy is.  For me, an enemy can be someone who cuts in line at the store when I’m already on a tight timeline or a gal who is talking on her cellphone next to me while I’m trying to be both zen and aerobically challenged on an elliptical machine at the gym.  (Please note the irony of that statement or else you will miss the joke.)  In truth, these aren’t enemies.   I’m sure I’ve butted in line and talked on my own phone in the gym.  This is at worst mildly annoying.

If only, God, you would kill the wicked!

   If only murderers would get away from me—

  the people who talk about you, but only for wicked schemes;

       the people who are your enemies,

       who use your name as if it were of no significance.

Don’t I hate everyone who hates you?

   Don’t I despise those who attack you?

Yes, I hate them—through and through!

   They’ve become my enemies too.

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

   Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

   then lead me on the eternal path! Psalm 139:18-24 CEB

The psalmist is not writing about people who annoy us.  Notice the use of pronouns.  What the psalmist is really saying is that God’s enemies are his enemies.  I guess, conversely, it implies that a friend of God’s is a friend of his.  I admit that I often find myself waking up to the reality that I spend a lot of time asking God to endorse my plans and thwart the attempts of others to interrupt them.  This is NOT in keeping with how the psalmist is suggesting we position ourselves in life and in relationship to God.

So for today, let’s take a breath and realize that maybe we better slow down our judgments and name callings, and instead, focus on the fact that God’s plans are incomprehensible (so no need for us to be so sure we know them).  And…our motivations are often incomprehensible to us as well (hence the concluding cry of surrender to God’s examination).

Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about real enemies.


Day 27

My community cracks me up.  When we studied the REST of Psalm 139 – the part you’re about to read, the audience asked, “Hey, what about forgiveness?”

To which Scott, our associate pastor replied, “Oh, that was last month’s series.”  Read the next series of verses and see if this doesn’t jar us all a bit from the previous verses that had us all remembering God’s care, concern, and ever-present help in times of trouble.

If only, God, you would kill the wicked!

   If only murderers would get away from me—

  the people who talk about you, but only for wicked schemes;

       the people who are your enemies,

       who use your name as if it were of no significance.

Don’t I hate everyone who hates you?

   Don’t I despise those who attack you?

Yes, I hate them—through and through!

   They’ve become my enemies too.

Examine me, God! Look at my heart!

   Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!

Look to see if there is any idolatrous way in me,

   then lead me on the eternal path! Psalm 139:18-24 CEB

I must admit, I appreciate a good God smiting of enemies…so long as he and I can agree on who the enemy is, right?  But what do we do with all those stories of people who have decided what God does and does not hate?  People who have used their loyalty to God as an excuse for violence, oppression, and hatred?

We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow, but just for today, can you take a few minutes to consider who your enemies are (from your perspective) and then ask God to examine you, look at your heart, put you to the test and see if, perhaps, you might need a course correction when it comes to how to define and deal with an enemy?

 


Day 26

God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!

   Their total number is countless!

If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand!

   If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you. Psalm 139:17-18 CEB

Yesterday I suggested that we all try to be a bit more conscious of God’s incomprehensible plans while we acknowledge our heart’s desires to know and love him and his plans – even the ones we cannot quite grasp.

I actually have been practicing this perspective lately.  For example, the other day I went to a lot of trouble to make a delicious butternut squash soup for dinner.  (If I’m going to cook dinner, it means a lot of things have to happen that I don’t ordinarily do:  plan and buy the ingredients, get up super early to get it going before I head out for the day – stuff like that.  I know most people regularly do these things, but I, sadly, do not.  So it’s a big deal.)  Suddenly I realized it was Thursday, and I wouldn’t get home until  9 pm  – too late for dinner!  Pete thought it might be nice to actually eat together and he suggested a nice lunch out.  Scott came by the house on his way to work and he liked the idea of having a nice lunch out too.

There was a moment when I was tempted to feel irritated with my schedule and foiled supper plans.  I had made an EFFORT to fix dinner for a change and I didn’t want it to go uneaten.  But in keeping with this practice of flexibility, I paused before grumbling and considered my options.  My schedule being what it was, I realized that I only had about a thirty minute window between my morning meetings and that nice lunch out – too short a timeframe to head into the office. What should I do, I wondered? I decided for efficiency’s sake to not rush to the office only to rush back out the door.  Instead, I took my conference calls from home.  This left those spare minutes available for folding laundry and cleaning the kitchen and even swiffering the kitchen floor.

And lunch?  It was fabulous fun.  I could have been a grouch, but instead, I …wasn’t.

When I got home that evening, the house was straight and I plopped down in the den with nary a worry about folding or swiffering.  This is not the day I planned – it is so much better!

Does this example seem silly?  Maybe so.  But for me, it was a way to practice what the psalms are teaching me.  God’s got plans, and when my agenda gets disrupted – it is at least plausible to consider the possibility that maybe my plans weren’t as good as his.  Today, when some outcome that you desire, some plan you’ve hatched, goes awry…try to remember that there is a chance that your course correction will ultimately be a blessing for you, or someone else.


Day 25

I have a lot of plans.  Sometimes I wake up at four in the morning, look at the clock and think, “Can I get up yet?  I have so much stuff on my docket today!”  I love making plans so much that when they get thrown off, I can get kind of grumpy.  And I get really irritable about a day filled with plans that I need to attend to, but didn’t necessarily make for myself.  Like when Pete (my husband who mostly works from home and handles all the service calls, postage deliveries and such) has to go to D.C. for the day, and I have to stay home and wait for the cable guy.  I am not inclined to think about the hundreds of times he handles these details, instead I think, “Oh man, this really messes with my plans!”

God, your plans are incomprehensible to me!

   Their total number is countless!

If I tried to count them—they outnumber grains of sand!

   If I came to the very end—I’d still be with you. Psalm 139:17-18 CEB

Lately, I’ve been thinking that my plans aren’t always so great, so why not try to be a little more flexible?  Especially in light of the psalmist’s viewpoint.  Maybe if I’m all obsessed with my plans then I’m too distracted to notice that God has some really awesome plans, and maybe I need to be grateful for God’s bigger vision.

Today, WHEN things don’t go according to PLAN (you know it’ll happen), can you take a moment, pause, and consider that there might be something going on in the kingdom of God that requires you to be a bit willing to be flexible with your plans in the kingdom of self?


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