Thursday, December 30, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 7 - Goodness and Mercy Follow Me

  Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 7 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

Goodness and Mercy Follow Me

One of the 'Dad jokes' in our house goes  "God has three sheepdogs. He's named them: Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy."  I honestly don't remember where I first heard the analogy that Goodness and Mercy are like God's sheepdogs, but it definitely stuck with me.  I love that mental image.

Even trying to sleep last night, though, I found I had 'traded' God's sheepdogs for other hounds called Stress, Worry, and Concern.  They were nipping at my heals for some time before I realized what had happened.  Being self employed and a single income family doesn't make this much easier.

Jesus says we shouldn't worry.  Something I'm finding lately is one of the best ways to combat worry is to be thankful.  More details about my original AHA moment around that on this post.  Its seems its far to easy to end up like the seeds in Jesus' Parable of the Sower which landed on the good ground but were choked by the thorns of 'worries, cares, and concerns of this world.'  

As an adult, I get glimpses every once in a while of what its be like to live without worries, cares, and concern.  Makes me want to be a kid again.  Carefree. 

Being Followed

Goodness and Mercy follow me.  That sounds like it should be a rather passive experience.  Given the context in this Psalm, if I follow the Good Shepherd's path of righteousness I shouldn't have to try and conjure up goodness or mercy in my life - they should just happen.  I'm curious though... does that mean I experience God's goodness and mercy in my life, or God's goodness and mercy overflow out of my life to others?  While its not clear, I'd like to think both.  As I experience God's goodness and mercy for myself, I can't help but share with others.

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, December 23, 2021

I Need God's Glasses

Sharp Vision

My wife has 20/20 vision.  I do not.  Neither do our kids.  For years the kids and I thought my wife was overly keen about cleaning things - the bathrooms, the kitchen, our hardwood floor - and then I realized one day that she's like this because she can see perfectly.  We can't.  She'll talk about how dirty a shower is sometimes, and I have literally no idea because I don't wear my glasses in the shower.  Or, just as often, my wife will ask me 'How can you see through those glasses?  They are so dirty!'  No wonder I can't see the dust on our hardwood floor.   :-\   Clear, focused vision is a gift, and I'm definitely missing it.

Focused Spiritually?

It got me wondering - how is my spiritual vision?  Jesus said 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'  How do I see God?  Is my picture of Him as it should be... do I see Him as He really is?  Or is it distorted and out of focus?  Do I let worries and cares distort my perspective of His loving heart for me?  Are my expectations of His involvement in my life out of focus?  What about how I see others and how I see my past?  Is it through the lens of God's grace?

Getting Blindsided

If you haven't noticed, I tend to ask myself a lot of questions.  I think this stems from an experience I had at a Discipleship Training School in Texas back in late fall, 1990.  I actually recalled this in a journal entry this past week...

Dec 3, 2021
“He has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light”. This was the verse that came to me this morning after reading my devotions.  Every time I hear/read this verse it takes me back to ICT (Intensive Christian Training) school at LDM in Texas.  This was ‘the verse’ the school counsellors believed God had spoken over our class.  I was so keen and expectant to hear from God during that time.  

For me the seminal week and day of that schooling was the last day of our Openness and Brokenness week.  We were encouraged to be brutally open and honest with ourselves and the class about sin in our lives in the past and ask God to break our hearts over it - show us how He felt about that sin - and ask for his forgiveness.  We were warned against pride in sharing.  

I had kind of been through an exercise like this informally the previous year at college.  As a result, when I shared that day in Texas I was proud that I could be so open because I 'already had experience at this'. But I certainly wasn’t proud of the bad things I had done.  My attitude, demeanour, and lack of true remorse in the openness and brokenness exercise were perceived as pride - or at the very least, enough of an improper attitude that the leadership excused me from the proceedings for the rest of the day.  This was a shock and it hurt.  I was blindsided.  I felt like I had terribly misunderstood something important and questioned everything.  The counsellors couldn’t have know my heart and the subtleties of my experience.  What they saw and heard must've been more black and white to them.  At the time I wasn’t informed enough and lacked the experience to understand why I had been oblivious to what was really going on.

Why am I bringing this up now?  I see now that even though some of my motivation was wrong, deeper in my heart I wanted to be involved and do the right thing.  I wasn't trying to be intentionally malicious in what I did.  God disciplines those He loves.  He doesn't give us more than we can bear.

I left the classroom that day, not knowing who to talk to or where to go.  I felt exposed and alone (so far from home, too).  All kinds of crazy thoughts go through one's mind after being publicly reprimanded and excused like that.  It was a rough afternoon.  Pride comes before the fall, and I fell hard that day.  

From that point and for many years following, I was much more cautious, hesitant, and less confident in my relationship with God.  I didn't want to get surprised like that ever again.  I consequently examine my motives and my spiritual decisions closely, asking myself a lot of questions. 

Search Me Oh God...

In several places in the Bible God is concerned that His children miss the forest for all the trees - even though they think they can see, they are truly blind to what really matters.  Just like my experience above, we can get a distorted spiritual view of ourselves.  

But God sees me with more clarity and in sharper contrast than I can see myself.  That's probably why David prayed 'Search me oh God, and see if there's any wicked way in me.'  He knew that our hearts can deceive us.  

God made me.  He knows what I'm going to think before I think it.  He's aware of all my foibles and issues, and He wants to help me see some of them a grow into someone who acts and thinks more like Him.  But He needs me to be willing to accept 'His glasses' so I can get a little bit of his view.  

Prayer and Love - Even Better? Journal Entry July 2024

 I'm travelling for work this week to Vilnius, Lithuania.  On the flight from Amsterdam to Vilnius yesterday, a mother and her son (who ...