Tag: Psalm 139

Anxious Thoughts

National_Park_Service_9-11_Statue_of_Liberty_and_WTCPractically everyone I know is struggling with anxious thoughts – uncertainty of finances, safety issues, health problems, dangerous weather patterns and simply losing the ability to have any certainty about where things are headed in this world. When the year that has just ended has been a particularly hard and uncomfortable one, what can alleviate anxieties about things over which we have no control?

David, the Shepherd/King, gives us the answer in Psalm 139.

Union_City_Oklahoma_Tornado_(mature)As a youth, he had already experienced that every battle he fought was not his battle, but the Lord’s (1 Samuel 17:47). Even from childhood, David’s sustainer was God. As he fought the bear and the lion, his only companion was God. As he faced Goliath, he knew that God was the only one he could count on – not heavy armor, not an army, not even his own brothers – only God. From an early age, David recognized his only provider, protector and guide was God. Where most of us would have been afraid to face a lion, a bear or a giant of a man, David was able to do so because he was sure of God’s presence. God would not allow him to go through anything that He would not bring him through.

He begins the psalm with the acknowledgment that God knows his every thought and his every move. You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways (v.1-3).

He ends with asking God to continue to search him and know his heart. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (v.23-24).How many of us want God to recognize our anxieties, to convict us of our wicked ways? David was a rare example of a man who knew he was blessed by God, who knew he was known by God and who knew, because of his own frailties, that he needed to be examined by God daily.

David’s penning of Psalm 139 does remind us he had anxious thoughts just like the rest of us. The difference between David and many of the rest of us is that he knew those anxious thoughts were part of his life and he surrendered them in advance to God – which is what the rest of us should be doing.

Birthday Celebrations

Eleanor_Roosevelt_with_Red_Skelton,_William_Douglas,_Lucille_Ball,_and_John_GarfieldIn America, although we usually celebrate on the actual day, we have no problem stretching our birthday celebrations as far as we can. We celebrate when we can gather together those we want to include in the celebration. If we can only gather together before the day, we do so and have a party. If we can’t get together until after the actual day, celebrating is done then. I have known some of us to stretch birthday celebrations over several weeks!

I lived in Germany for several years and discovered that their birthday traditions were very different. Germans consider it bad luck to wish them happy birthday before their actual day. They certainly do celebrate, but it is on the day itself and the person with the birthday foots the entire bill – even if it is a very large party!

Cantor_&_Temple-FDRI consider Americans (and many other nationalities) fortunate when it comes to birthday celebrations. Others plan the party and can even make it a surprise. The person celebrating the birthday often doesn’t have to do a thing but enjoy family, friends, favorite foods and open their special gifts. They don’t have to do anything or spend anything to enjoy that special day.

As a family, we usually give a lot of thought to our birthday gifts. One year my husband and I designed a special calendar for our grandson’s birthday. The first month was not January, but July – the month of his birth. Each month pictured something related to his name.

God, our Father, made plans for our birthdays long before we were even born – even before He created the world. He designed a special calendar for each one of us. The gifts He gives to us stretch from the beginning of our lives all the way to the end. All we have to do is receive them and enjoy them.

… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:4-5). For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:13, 15-16). Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights… (James 1:17).

Connecting the Dots: An Exercise in Understanding Life

As a child, I worked with books containing several different kinds of exercises: coloring pages, mazes, crossword puzzles and connect the dots.  My favorite was connecting the dots. On the most complex pages, you could not tell what the picture was until you had completed the process of connecting dot number one with dot number two, etc. until the last dot had been connected. The resulting picture was in the background. The creator of the page had it in mind before he removed the lines that connected each dot. His aim was for the picture to be discovered after the dots were connected.

I remember some of the “aha” moments I had when I had finally connected enough dots to see what the picture was going to be, but finished the exercise anyway because I wanted to see the completed picture. I might then color it, but I often left it just as it was when the last dot had been connected because I had seen all I needed to see. The delight was in finding the hidden picture.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., gave a speech to the graduating class at Stanford University in June 2005. His first point caught my attention. It was about connecting the dots.

Steve’s story of connecting the dots had to do with his own life. He was where he was in business because of a series of events that happened, some beyond his control: circumstances surrounding his adoption as a child, his quitting college and deciding to pursue his personal interests, his being fired at the company he started, etc. All this led him to a point where he was able to accomplish certain other things. Connecting those dots in retrospect helped him see the fuller picture of why he was able to do the things he did.

He said connecting the dots is only possible when you look back on life, but when you do connect them, situations that at first seemed to be negative can sometimes lead to a positive outcome.

Connecting the dots is my favorite way to study the Bible. The many ways to study God’s word, such as verse-by-verse exposition, character analysis, theme, book study, etc., all have great value. The important thing is to spend time reading His word, asking Him to reveal His truth to you, and making the application when it has been revealed.

Often, when I am reading God’s word, I notice the repetition of a word or a concept and start connecting those dots. For instance, when I was reading through the letters the apostle Paul wrote, I started noticing similarities in his prayers. The result of that study was a book: The Prayer Driven Life. Paul’s prayers included prayers of blessings, thanksgiving for the saints, praise and thanksgiving to God, petitions to God on behalf of the saints, and benedictions. I never would have discovered those groupings of prayers had I not connected the dots that flowed from Romans through Philemon.

Connecting the dots of God’s word is exciting to me.  Many of my Bible studies have started that way. Connecting the dots between His word, history and current events makes sense. Reading the Bible is as currently relevant as reading today’s newspaper. Connecting the dots between His word and the events of life takes the focus off myself and onto His plan.

Steve Jobs was partially right. We connect the dots in our own lives by looking backwards. Christians, however, have an advantage: one of faith and trust in God who has a plan. The resulting picture of our completed lives was already in our Creator’s mind before we were ever born. His plan connects the dots of our past and present with our future. As I watch the picture He created unfold, I know I can trust the Creator to do all that is right.

My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:15-16).