psalm 27

psalm 27.png

Sometimes you just need a sentence to start a blog, and I can’t think of one right now so I’m writing this.

Glad I got that out of the way.

Life is weird and hard. I think of all that is going on in my life, in the lives of my friends, in the lives of my family, in the lives of my friend’s families, and it’s just hard. Sure, some things are harder than others, but as a whole, life is not easy.

As a follower of Jesus it’s often difficult for me to sit in the hard things, in the unknown, and trust God. Sure, I trust that He has granted me eternal life through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; however I don’t always trust that He’s got my day-to-day laid out as neatly as I would like for Him to.

As a friend and I recently discussed – sure God, we’re on board with you being in control and having the reins of our lives, but could you just tell us where we’re going? Maybe drop a line with a heads up on which train station we’re about to pull in to?

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And then…I open up tonight’s psalm.
I’m just gonna give you a couple verses, but you can read the whole thing here.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (v1)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. (v4)

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (v14)

As much as I would love to know where God is taking me in the next 5 months, 5 years, 10 years, etc. – I don’t have to know the details to be confident that He will take care of me. He is my light and salvation. He is my stronghold.

Not marriage.
Not a job.
Not friendships.
Not personal happiness.

He is.

And you know what cures that discontentment? Gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. Oh that my heart’s desire would be Him and Him alone!
I can’t imagine how peaceful my little beating heart would be if the one thing I sought after in this life was to dwell in the house of the Lord. Instead, I waste my time seeking after comfort, approval, momentary satisfaction – all things that can’t sustain.

And then, we get to the end.

The word “strong” here in the original Hebrew means: to fasten upon.

It doesn’t mean physical strength. It’s not telling me to go lift some more at the gym. To get swole for Jesus.

It is telling me to fasten myself to the Lord. To wait for Him while I’m attached to Him.

I don’t know where the next steps of my life will take me. But gosh darn it, I’m going to latch myself like a sloth on a branch to God and just enjoy the ride.

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psalm 26

psalm 26

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.

I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.
I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.

I was my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. Do not sweep my should away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes.

But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

When I first sat down to this psalm tonight, I felt like I needed to add, “Yyeeaaahh OPPOSITE DAY!” to the ending.

I read this through one time and felt all of my inadequacies bubble up to the surface. I felt the weight of my sin nullifying the words that David writes. The reality of, “Man, I could never say this about myself!” overpowering the beauty of the Gospel and the even more real reality of redemption.

I read through this again and felt an overwhelming sense of praise and peace flood over me – a recognition that, yeah, I can never ever eevvveerrr say this about myself. But, I can say this about Jesus.

I can look to the One who bore my sin on His body and say, “I do not sit with men of falsehood…I sit in the presence of Jesus, the One they call the Christ, and I proclaim thanksgiving and tell of His wondrous deeds.”

And because of Jesus I truly can say, “O Lord, I love the place where Your glory dwells.” O how I long for those moments of glory – of heaven on earth – of the Spirit of God to be so evident in my life that I can’t ignore His movement any longer! I crave the grace He pours out morning by morning! And from that posture of my heart, I get where David is coming from.

I don’t think David has illusions of being sinless or in no need of mercy – I think he just has a proper view of who his God is, and because of that, he has a proper view of himself.

We can, along with David, boldly proclaim that our feet stand on level ground because Christ has paved the way for us. He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, and empowers us to walk in that light.

Praise be to God whose steadfast love is ever before our eyes!!

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psalm 25

psalm 25

I recently read somewhere that one of the great gifts of the psalms are that they are not only the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but that they are also our words to Him. Through the psalms, we can learn how God not only delights in us speaking to Him, but they can guide us in how to do so.

Growing up, talking to God the way some of the psalmist talk to Him would have been SCANDALOUS. Like, Olivia Pope circa season 1 scandy.

But as I’ve grown in my relationship with Jesus, I’ve come to long for the types of conversations David had with God. I’ve come to crave the honesty that he has in his voice when speaking with the One that loves him most.

Who would’ve thought that we could ever ask of God, “Let me not be put to shame.”
“Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love…” (Like God needs a reminder…)
“Pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”

Nope. Those aren’t the words I learned to talk to God with.

I learned, “Lord, be with SoNSo cause she’s a big sinner right now and just miserable. And help me get an A on the test I didn’t study for. Oh, and if you can, make that boy like me. And forgive this one sin I committed yesterday. In Jesus name, Amen.”

I’m so thankful that God has opened my eyes to the freedom He allows His children to have – that we can come to Him in moments of great joy and moments of great despair, humbly and honestly approaching His throne of glory. And we can do this because a baby born in Bethlehem lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserve to die because of our sin and rebellion, and rose again on the 3rd day – walking out of a freaking tomb – so that we can be and are redeemed and made righteous before the Most High God.

Because of Jesus, may we approach our Loving Father with words like David, feeling the freedom to bring all of our junk and all of who we are to the One who loves us most:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; the shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach 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.
Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lordtherefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. For your name’s sake, O Lordpardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lordfor he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.

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cheers to the risk

Cheers to the Risk

“Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”-Brené Brown

This past weekend I had the privilege of retreating with some ladies from my church. The whole premise of the retreat was to sit around a table, eat delicious foods, and tell stories of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we hope to go with Jesus. It was – hands down – my favorite women’s retreat I’ve ever been on.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit over the last few days about spiritual community – thoughts unfortunately spurned on by the great lack that most people seem to have. It seems as if so many of us that follow Jesus are trying to do it alone. Or, at bare minimum, we invite others into our lives to follow Him with one another, but it’s as if we’re walking on opposite sides of the road, unwilling to close the gap and truly journey together. There’s great risk in sharing our lives with people around us, and we’re too scared to take that step. So, instead, we do all the right things – Bible study, small group, women’s events, church clean-up days, dinner with a group of people once a month – we insert ourselves into all the right ‘communities’ thinking that at some point, magic will happen and we’ll be seen and known the way we desire. But here’s the catch – we won’t. We can show up and do all the right things and never get to the point where people know us – really know us.

We’re afraid of the vulnerability and risk it will take to really open our hearts up to others, trusting that the Lord has placed people in our lives to be God-with-flesh-on for us, to fill the intimate space of companionship that we all so desperately crave.

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us. We’re afraid that our truth isn’t enough – that what we have to offer isn’t enough without the bells and whistles, without editing, and impressing.”-Brené Brown

For me, the space never even came CLOSE to being filled until I came to the end of my do-ing, and let myself just be.

Be seen.
Be known.
Be open.
Be vulnerable.
Be ready for grace.
Be ready for God to show up.

Be present with Jesus and not expect anything but Him.

And then, be present with people – offering our story of where we’ve been with Jesus, where we are with Jesus, and where we hope to go with Jesus.
Opening up our lives, risking the potential rejection, hurt, and isolation that may come with the weight our stories carry.
But the other thing we risk – the beautiful thing that we risk – is actually having someone receive our story.

Because once someone receives it, they are in it with you. They are now a part of your story. And you can’t walk away from that the same person.

It. Will. Change. You.

I think we all wait around for that type of pivotal plot point, eager to step into that sacred space. But few of us are willing to open up our souls, standing naked and unashamed before one another (metaphorically naked, that is. Keep your clothes on if we’re hanging out…)

I guess that’s my point. Take the risk. Raise your glass to the unknown, to that which should scare the pants off of you (but again…keep your pants on). You’re life will be filled to the brim if you do.

“The willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.”-Brené Brown

 

(sorry, not sorry for all the Brené Brown quotes. now, go read all her books and have your heart ripped out a little bit – in the best ways.)

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psalm 24

psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.*

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!

*que youth group song that I now cannot get out of my head. (if you don’t know, you are so blessed.)

Over the past few years as I’ve sat down on a semi-weekly basis to write, I’ve usually approached the keyboard with a general thought or theme that’s been running through my mind for a few days. For however long it’s been that I’ve been going through the psalms, it’s been fairly easy to read the passage and say, “Yes! That’s the thing for the week!”

But tonight is different.
It’s a little more difficult.

I read this psalm and the only thing I can think about is Jesus. He is the only “theme” that is coming to mind. He is the “thing” for the week.

And, as I started to type, I felt kinda Aunt Linda about it.

aunt linda

 

Like, “ah geez. These people are probably sick of me saying the same thing overandoverandoverandoverandover again.”

I felt oddly inadequate – as though I’m not a good enough writer to pull some hyper-spiritual truth that will change the world ONCE AND FOR ALL from this text.

But then, I’m like, “uuuhhhhh wut?! Isn’t He the point? Isn’t Jesus TRULY the THING?! Like…the only thing that really matters? Isn’t His life, death, and resurrection THE POINT of this whole thing?”

Who can ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place?

JESUS.

It’s Jesus, you guys.
The One they call the Christ.

I feel inadequate because I am inadequate.
I cannot claim to have clean hands and a pure heart and to have never lifted my soul up to that which is false.
I fail consistently at seeking the face of God.

But the thing that brings me to tears is that Jesus still loves me – even though I am inadequate and dirty and impure. And not only that, HE makes me adequate, clean, and pure. He gives me that part of Himself.

I may sound like a broken record, and you make be tired of the same-ol’-same from dear ol’ Kayla, but I need this truth to be told to me constantly.
I need to be reminded that Jesus has completed the work it takes to pay my debt of sin & rebellion against a Holy God.
I need to be reminded that I am loved and valued because He said so.
And that the only One that can stand in His holy place, does stand in His holy place, interceding on my behalf until the day He returns again.

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psalm 23

psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I read this psalm and I imagine David, as he’s writing/singing/praying this to his Almighty God, taking a long, deep breath and settling into a seat with his favorite view of the countryside in front of him.

I picture David realizing – for the first time, or even being reminded yet again – that all his striving and working and laboring doesn’t matter. That he is safe and secure because he belongs to the Lord.

I picture him reminding himself that it is the Lord who has done all the great things in his life.

I picture David doing this, because that’s what I’m doing. I’m breathing deep, taking all of God in and being reminded that the end of me is where He can step in and fill up. That it is there where my cup overflows.

Recently my church held a discipleship cohort where we discussed Bible reading and study, asking questions of the text to better know God and know ourselves through Scripture. The last question we ask is: What do I need to hear?

And tonight, my answer? That the Lord leads me beside still waters. He settles me. He draws me in and fills the space that only He can fill. He restores the broken parts in ways only He can restore.

I do nothing.
He does it all.

I work for nothing.
His work is complete.

So, for His name’s sake, I’m going to cling to that and live in the freedom of knowing that the Just and Justifier has called me His and redeemed me by the blood of His Son on the cross. And because of Jesus, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

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psalm 22 (the final part)

psalm 22 pt5
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lordand all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the Lordand he rules over the nations.
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.
(v. 25-31)
I’m continually challenged by David’s words and posture toward the Lord. I’m amazed after all his struggle and doubt and heartache, he is able to turn back toward the Lord. He is able to remember that the afflicted shall eat and be satisfied.
Yes, we all know that David screwed some things up majorly during his time, but he is also the one known as the man after God’s own heart. We know that he is a sinner among sinners, but he is also a man who understands he is not outside of God’s sovereignty or redemption.
My natural bent is when I screw things WAY up or fall into sin and rebellion, I tend to believe the lie that God isn’t big enough to forgive me this time. That, with this one thing, I’m just too far gone.
David’s words remind me that I am never too far gone. That those who seek Him shall praise Him. That God has done a great thing and continues to do great things for His children.
I’m reminded that Kingship belongs to the Lord – that Jesus, the One they call the Christ, has lived, died, and risen again on my behalf and now rules over darkness and death. They have no power. Sin has lost its sting. Jesus is King!
May this truth be told of the Lord to the coming generation!
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psalm 22 (pt. 4)

psalm-22-pt4

But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

(v19-24)

Remember last week when David was surrounded by many bulls and had no way out? When his heart was like wax?

Well, here we are…at the turning point. Redemption and rescue on the horizon.

David is starting to remember who his God is. He’s remembering that he can call upon the name of the One who is mighty to save – and he will be rescued!

Why does he remember this? Because his God has done it before…

“You have rescued me…”

Have.
Past tense.

And David can trust that this God – the Creator of all – has not despised or recoiled from the affliction of those that are afflicted. That He has not hidden his face from his people.

No.
He has actually heard when we cry to Him.

Man, how many times have my bones felt dried up, my heart like wax, and I just sat in the crap. I’ve been so focused on myself that I’ve forgotten who my God is. I complain and commiserate about my situation and ignore the truth that Yahweh Himself has heard my cry.

I love this section of the psalm – that David has lamented, but is now moving toward praise in who his God is. It is a great reminder for me: it’s okay for me to lament and cry out; in fact, I think God welcomes it. But I also need to listen to the still, small voice saying, “Oh, my child, do you not remember who I am? Do you not remember that I have rescued you before and will do it again?”

I do remember. And praise Him indeed that He has not recoiled from my affliction, but walks with me in it – granting love and mercy all along the way.

Rescue and redemption are on the horizon.

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psalm 22 (pt. 3)

psalm-22-pt3
Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet — I can count all my bones — they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
(v. 12-18)
I don’t know if you’ve ever been encompassed by many bulls, but I have been surrounded by many chickens before and it was terrifying. Like, straight up panic-attack-sprint-back-to-the-house-scared. And I don’t sprint for many things. So I feel like I can relate to David on a deeper level here.
But for serious.
I love that David was able to put words to his distress. That he was able to be raw and honest with himself and his Creator; that he trusted God enough to come undone.
Too often I think we (at least, I do) shove all of the hard stuff down. When we start to realize that trouble is near and there is none to help (v. 11), we draw back instead of stepping forward. We say things like, “Oh, yeah, ya know, this season is a little tough right now, but I’ll be okay. It’s not that big of a deal.” Or, “Well, there are people all over the world with worse problems than me. I’ll be fine. We don’t need to talk about it.”
The danger comes when we approach God with that demeanor.
“Hey Lord, yeah, I’m doin fine. Thanks for waking me up this morning and giving us Chick-Fil-A. Everything else is fine. I just need to keep my head down and work through this season and everything will be great.”
I think we rob ourselves of redemption and restoration when we do that.
When we put on the front that life isn’t really that hard and we don’t need anyone – including God Himself – we are missing the chance to be cared for and loved by the only true Lover of our souls.
I love that David sets the tone – that we have the freedom to say, “You know what God, I am dried up and poured out. My heart feels like wax and I don’t know how to move forward. There is nothing and no one that can save me. I need You to show up or I’m going to die.”
What beauty that when we are hanging on by a thread, we are in the best position we could ever be – trusting in the One who fully saves and redeems, and always comes through.
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holy ground

holy-ground

There’s something holy and sacred about being asked to hold part of someone else’s story. Whether it is being asked to pray for a certain situation or relationship, or having someone share wonderful, life changing news, there is so much beauty in being invited in to another’s life.

Having experienced this invitation, I feel terribly inadequate in carrying the title of “friend” in other’s lives. To be honored in such a way that a person trusts me with their story – man…I just don’t know that I have the words.

I can’t just ignore it – I’m standing on holy ground. I’ve been invited into sacred space with another image bearer of the Most High God.

It’s really easy for me to sit in a day like today – Valentine’s Day – when my social media feed is flooded with posts of husbands and wives doting over one another and girls posting all about how their boyfriend is the best boyfriend in the whole-wide-world*, and feel oh so sorry for myself. To look at what they have and get really lonely, dwelling on what I don’t. Longing for someone to share a BOGO at Qdoba with, just because we kissed each other.

It’s easy to forget what I do have – to let the singular voice of ‘not-yet-married’ drown out the many voices of ‘you-are-so-loved.’

What I do have is this: people that invite me into their lives in ways that I don’t even have language to express. People that weep with me. People that rejoice with me. People that allow me rejoice with them; not only allow me, but ask me to! Man! What a freaking honor!!

It’s like they are eating their most favorite dish in the entire world and, without hesitation, they slide their plate over to me with the last bite on the fork and say, “Here, I want you to have this. I want you to share in the joy that is mine.”

I think too often we blow past the sacred space others invite us in to because we are afraid of what it calls us to. We are afraid that we’ll have to do something with it. And, guess what, we will. We’ll be called to open up our own lives, which risks hurt and heartache.

It’s much easier to keep people at a distance, never admitting our need for one another. But it’s also much less beautiful.

I would rather walk away from a conversation, my heart bursting with joy and love and, well, holiness I think, than never know the depth of connection I can have with another person.

The risk is worth it.
The friends are worth it.
The sacred connection we get to experience is worth it.
Every. Time.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I’m not going to be sad or bummed or lonely because I’m single.
Instead, I’m going to be ever so grateful for the ways in which God fills the sacred space in my heart – with Himself and with those that allow me to call them friend.

*can we talk about this for a second? Not everyone can have the best boyfriend in the entire world. They don’t all tie for first place. Some of them are kinda crappy.

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