Pelican flying over the gulf - Galveston, TX


Some days it’s hard to remember that God really listens. But He does. He’s the one Person who can listen to what we say and actually hear what we mean.

So here is a Psalm to consider on this hump-day morning. And for those of you who are discouraged about God not paying attention, take a page out of David’s book and ask Him to listen. He will. You just have to trust that He does.

Pelican flying over the gulf - Galveston, TX

Pelican flying over the gulf – Galveston, TX

Psalm 17 (The Message)

Listen while I build my case, God, the most honest prayer you’ll ever hear. Show the world I’m innocent— in your heart you know I am.

Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night— You’ll find I’m just what I say I am. My words don’t run loose.

I’m not trying to get my way in the world’s way. I’m trying to get your way, your Word’s way. I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot In front of the other. I’m not giving up.

I call to you, God, because I’m sure of an answer. So—answer! bend your ear! listen sharp! Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who Are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.

Keep your eye on me; hide me under your cool wing feathers From the wicked who are out to get me, from mortal enemies closing in.

Their hearts are hard as nails, their mouths blast hot air. They are after me, nipping my heels, determined to bring me down, Lions ready to rip me apart, young lions poised to pounce. Up, God: beard them! break them! By your sword, free me from their clutches; Barehanded, God, break these mortals, these flat-earth people who can’t think beyond today. I’d like to see their bellies swollen with famine food, The weeds they’ve sown harvested and baked into famine bread, With second helpings for their children and crusts for their babies to chew on.

And me? I plan on looking you full in the face. When I get up, I’ll see your full stature and live heaven on earth.

Snow on the chicken fence - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Everyday courage

What is courage? I am hosting an event at my house for a bunch of awesome ladies, and we’re focusing on women of courage from the Bible. I may end up leading a devotional one day (if I can ever get my act together) so I’ve been trying to do some study on what makes somebody courageous.

I know that courage isn’t just blindly racing into danger without fear; that’s foolishness. Courage is action in spite of fear. But what does courage look like?

Is courage flashy? Is it those intense moments like when David fought Goliath? Is it those scary moments like on the battlefield? Is it the underdog going up against all odds? Is it bold action? Is it obvious?

Snow on the chicken fence - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the chicken fence – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 30:6.

David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

No, not the verse you were probably expecting about courage. We usually think Joshua when we talk about courage in the church because that is the greatest verse about having courage. Joshua 1:9. Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Yes, it’s a great verse, but Joshua was a warrior facing a warrior’s goal.

David was also a warrior, and while this was definitely a time in David’s life when he had to do a lot of fighting, that’s not what was going on right here. See, David and his men were out, and while they were out, their enemies attacked their camp and carried off all their valuables, including their wives and children.

Not a good day.

His men were angry. Who wouldn’t have been? But they blamed him. They wanted to kill him. They were so angry about losing their families they wanted someone to take the fall, which is understandable, but could you imagine what would have happened if they’d killed David? Yeah. Glad that didn’t happen.

But my interest this morning is David’s reaction: David found strength in the Lord his God.

I don’t know David personally, but I’ve read enough of his writing to have something of an insight into his personality. David was a passionate, emotional person. He didn’t just devote part of his heart to any task. It was all or nothing. And up until this point in his life, David hadn’t really failed much. Yes, there were things he probably could have done better, but he’d never lost a step. Not like this.

And if his men were upset, I guarantee David was more upset. And I guarantee he blamed himself. That’s who David was. He loved people. He loved his men. He loved his family. So how do you think he felt when he realized that he had failed them?

Well, he probably would have let them stone him.

There have been points in my life where I feel like I have failed so miserably that it’s not worth getting up in the morning. There have been days when I have been so depressed and so discouraged that living–just making it from day-to-day–has taken more strength than I thought I had. And on those days, the prospect of life as usual is terrifying in a way that I can’t explain.

Have you ever been there? If you have, you know what I’m talking about. Life is dreary. Even though deep inside you know the world is still colorful and beautiful, but it’s like you’re viewing life in black and white.

On those days, to pick yourself up and push yourself forward takes courage. But it’s not the flashy battlefield kind of courage. It’s quiet courage, the kind of courage that keeps you moving forward when all you really want to do is give up. And that kind of courage often goes unnoticed. Or it’s mistaken for faith or perseverance, and that’s what it is to a certain extent. But if you’re going to endure through difficult times without being able to see what’s at the end of the road, you have to have courage. Maybe it’s everyday courage, but it’s still courage.

When David faced his men — his brothers in arms — knowing that they were angry with him for the loss of their families, the only way he could continue to lead was to take strength from God.

And that’s what we have to do. On those difficult days when the world seems gray and dreary, when life doesn’t feel worth living, when getting out of bed seems like more trouble than it’s worth, we need to remember that God is still working. He’s still got something for us to do, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.

God has proven Himself over and over and over again throughout history, and when He offers to help us, we just need to take Him at His Word. We just need to get up. And we just need to keep going.

Remember that God isn’t going anywhere. He hasn’t left you. And He’s standing ready to help whenever you call.

If you read the rest of 1 Samuel 30, David and his men tracked down their enemies, took back their possessions, and didn’t lose a single person. God gave them victory from the ashes of defeat and blessed them more greatly than they could have achieved on their own.

So strengthen yourself today by remembering who God is and who you are to God. And be courageous. Maybe not battlefield courageous but everyday courageous, and God will give you victory. He has a long history of that sort of thing.

Pine cone on stone steps - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Being good

There’s an old saying. “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.” Have you ever heard that? I think I learned it in Sunday School, or maybe my parents taught me. I can’t remember. Usually people recite it back and forth to each other. It’s one of those stoic old formulaic things that really rubs me the wrong way … except it’s true.

But what does it mean to be good? Do we really grasp that? Because none of us are good. I mean, there are some of us who are okay. I don’t consider myself a bad person, but then, what is bad? What standard do you use to judge good and bad, right and wrong? If good is perfect, none of us are good enough.

Pine cone on stone steps - Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Pine cone on stone steps – Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:34.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

This is actually part of the chapter I blogged about yesterday, but I just couldn’t get this phrase out of my head. The text actually comes out of an Old Testament history. The Chronicles are the history of the kings of Israel and Judah with a little more detail. And this is during the time that King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.

Yes, the Ark of the Covenant really existed. No, it was nothing like Raiders of the Lost Ark. And, since Jesus is our Mediator between God and Man now, the Ark is no longer needed, which is why it’s not around anymore. Just FYI.

Just a brief bit of explanation: the situation with the Ark started back during the time when Saul was king. I can’t remember exactly, but he did something foolish and allowed the Ark to fall into the hands of the Philistines, one of Israel’s enemies. I don’t remember the verse, but it’s a somewhat entertaining bit of Philistine history. So as king, David decided that the Ark needed to be returned to Jerusalem. But his first attempt was shoddy and not according to God’s rules. That happens in 1 Chronicles 13, and one of David’s people ends up dying because he touched the Ark when he wasn’t supposed to. So David left the Ark halfway to Jerusalem for three months before he realized that he had done it wrong. He comes back in Chapter 16 to do it right. And this verse comes out of a song that David sings when they get the Ark back to Jerusalem.

As a child, when I read this story, I didn’t understand it. Even now, I still struggle with it somewhat. Because it seems to me that these peoples’ intentions were true. They wanted the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, to be returned to Jerusalem where it belonged. And just because someone who wasn’t in the right “class” of people touched it, he was killed?

That sounds harsh to me even now. But the truth is, God had told them a specific way to move the Ark. And David thought he knew better. Yes, his motivation was true, but even if your motivation is true, that doesn’t excuse your actions if they’re wrong.

This story is just one indication that we really don’t know what “good” is. We can tell you our interpretation of good. We can tell you the “good things” we’ve done. But are our “good things” even good? If we don’t know what good really is, how can say anything we’ve done is good?

What is good? And what does it take to be good?

Only God is good. And He’s good all the time. So if you’re trying to define “good” you have to look at God.

Good is the opposite of bad. Good is genuine and real, striking a balance between a true heart and correct action. Being good requires perfection. None of us can be good. Period.

Random people on the street who’ve lived in sin all their lives can’t be good. People who’ve grown up in the church and have decided to do their own thing can’t be good. People who’ve grown up in the church and have never left the church can’t be good. None of us can be good. Maybe we can try, but I guess what I’m saying is that none of us can be good enough.

God is good. In every situation. In every circumstance. In every life. Even when you feel bad, even when you are bad, God is good. He can’t be anything else.

If we want to be good, we need to run our actions through the filter of God’s goodness. We need to ask ourselves if the choice we’re getting to make is based on our own selfish desires or on what God has clearly told us in Scripture. We need to ask ourselves if the way we’re treating people is based in anger or love.

Are we living like Jesus did? Are we living like God has told us? Whether that means addressing your thought life or your pride or your improper relationships, we need to change. And even those of us with the best most pure intentions need to re-examine our hearts. Because even if we have good intentions, we’re still not good enough. And our good intentions can easily become something that destroys other people if our actions don’t match up with what God has said is right.

Another reason this verse won’t get out of my head is the new Casting Crowns song that’s been played all over the radio recently. I embedded it below. It’s a little creepy, but all music videos are, so I suggest getting it to play and looking at something else while you listen.

Just remember that nobody’s good enough. We’re all just beggars that Jesus gave bread. And while we are supposed to help each other and keep each other accountable, not one of us is better than someone else.

Only God is good. The best we can do is imitate Him, but we can’t pick and choose His qualities to imitate. Like Scripture, it’s all or none. He is good and righteous and just; but He is also merciful and loving. It’s a hard line to walk. But that’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit. That’s why we have Christ’s example in Scripture.

Praising God in the wilderness

Scripture is amazing. If we allow it, it will explain itself all by itself. And that’s awesome for people like me who don’t know Greek or Hebrew. The Bible isn’t complicated. I mean, we make it complicated, but when you really get down to it, Scripture is simple.

I think too much sometimes. And I know I talk too much. So when I run into a verse like today’s verse (Psalm 63:1), I really get to the point where there’s nothing I feel led to say that will communicate it any clearer than the language that’s already used.

I decided to read the whole of Psalm 63, and it just touched me so much I decided to just post the whole chapter. The thing that’s important to realize, though, is when this was written. This chapter was written by David when he was wandering the Judean wilderness. And it makes me think about whether or not I think like this when I’m wandering in the wilderness. I don’t think I do. When I feel lost or abandoned or alone, I feel sorry for myself.

But Psalm 63 isn’t about feeling sorry for yourself. This is a song of praise and worship to the God who always knows what He’s doing.

Just take a moment to read this Psalm and for those of us who feel stressed and overwhelmed by the wilderness of life, put yourself in David’s shoes. I know I’m not in a literal desert (although with the drought in Kansas this year, we might be able to call it that). And I know nobody is chasing me with the intent of killing me.

Even in the worst times of his life, David never thought his life looked bleak (the issue with Bathsheba notwithstanding). Maybe the Psalms might have started out that way, but by recounting what was wrong in his life, David often opened his eyes to the things that were right and he ended on a high note.

There’s nothing wrong in our lives that God can’t fix.

Psalm 63

1 O God, you are my God;
      I earnestly search for you.
   My soul thirsts for you;
      my whole body longs for you
   in this parched and weary land
      where there is no water.
 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
      and gazed upon your power and glory.
 3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
      how I praise you!
 4 I will praise you as long as I live,
      lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
 5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
      I will praise you with songs of joy.

 6 I lie awake thinking of you,
      meditating on you through the night.
 7 Because you are my helper,
      I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
 8 I cling to you;
      your strong right hand holds me securely.

 9 But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin.
      They will go down into the depths of the earth.
 10 They will die by the sword
      and become the food of jackals.
 11 But the king will rejoice in God.
      All who trust in him will praise him,
      while liars will be silenced.