SOS!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/6149772/Pictures-of-the-day-7-September-2009.html?image=10
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/6149772/Pictures-of-the-day-7-September-2009.html?image=10

This week, we’ve talked about learning from David’s coping pattern. Yesterday, we touched on some maintenance principals, but are you in it now? Right this minute, are you on Normandy Beach? No matter which direction you run, bullets tear at your clothes and skin, wiping out your battalion and leaving you alone—you try to shoot, but the enemy is everywhere. You want to shut down, to bury yourself somehow. Listen to my voice now.

You

Will

Make

It

You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone. First of all, straighten your neck. Find your chest—it’s probably making itself easy to find, heart pounding or clenched like a fist. Pull your shoulders back and take a long breath. Not just a deep breath, a long one. Count to 4 while it’s entering your body. Count to 4 while you let it out. Do it one more time.

Breathe First, Talk Second

Express yourself to God, out loud or on paper. Some way that your feelings don’t remain unnamed and unaddressed and ricocheting inside your head. God can take it. Jesus forgave those guys who had just spent all night beating him and then nailed him to the cross. He can forgive you for fussing in frustration. Before you finish, remind yourself of one thing God has done for you or one promise you are claiming and choose to trust Him, even if you hurt too badly to feel it.

Rest

There are times when bad news just keeps coming, or when depression makes any movement hard. Allot yourself a specific time to rest. Spend that time nurturing yourself—not beating yourself up, resenting someone else or fretting. When your thoughts go in those directions, clip the strings on them and let them float away while you return to resting. Don’t expect yourself to be completely void of thought, but find a verse or quality of God and keep returning your thoughts to it. You might take a walk or a nap in the process, but don’t confuse sleep with rest. You’ll be more rested if you stay conscious during this time. I love the gentle rhythms of this worship mix. If your mind can’t take any words right now, here is a beautiful piano mix and a pretty violin-piano combination. Make sure Be careful to pray for God’s guidance and to compare every teaching to scripture.

Move

After praying and taking a short rest, you might need some Israel & New Breed to get you moving. Even if it seems like nothing you do makes a difference, get up. Do one thing that you know is good for you. Set a timer if you need to, and do it for 20 minutes—the first 10 minutes is just a warm-up. If you feel internal resistance, if you have to whip yourself into gear, pause for a second and clip the string on that attitude. You are doing what you can right now, because this is your life and you get to move. You won’t let any enemy freeze you in place. If the devil can’t get us to do outright wrong, he often aims for locking us up so we can’t do anything at all. Inertia destroys lives, so move.

Give the Order

If you haven’t been taught about spiritual warfare, it might sound freaky, but follow me for a second. If there is a righteous, loving God, there’s an unrighteous devil. Say it with me: “Devil, this isn’t your life. This is mine, and I’m God’s. Get out of here in the name of Jesus.” Ask God for a hand up and thank Him for being your Protector and the One with the plan. I wouldn’t devote any large amount of time talking to the devil when you can be talking to your Creator, but Jesus’ own brother James said, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” James 4:7 NKJV. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room and let him squeeze you into a corner. Show him the door.

I’d love to pray for you more specifically, so feel free to send me a message here or on Facebook. For now…

Lord, thank You for being our constant companion. Sometimes it’s hard being human, but we trust You to show us what we need to see, when we need to see it, to provide for us and to make Your presence known to us as we spend time with You. Help us to stay aware and to respond to Your guidance, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Linking Arms with David

Photo by Kristi Bridges (thanks to the willing strangers at the park today!)
Photo by Kristi Bridges (thanks to the willing strangers at the park today!)

Yesterday, I said I love the Psalms because they’re a kind of journal, a human’s intimate and honest relationship with God. What do King David’s battles have to do with our “civilized” lives? God called David “A man after My own heart” I Samuel 13:14 NKJV, and since I’m madly in love with God, I want to get to know His friends. David made some hefty mistakes, but he showed true humility when faced with them, and total abandonment in worship. He really loved his Creator. Joyful abandonment in worship? Totally me. Humility? Work in progress. We have even more common ground, and that’s where I really learn from him.

Battleground

David’s life was intense, scary, violent, passionate. The attacks he experienced involved personal betrayal and physical weapons that left people dead, maimed and injured. I don’t deal with those situations in my daily life, although I recognize that there are areas in my own city and around the world, where the bloodthirsty and the power hungry rip lives apart with no remorse.

In Ephesians, Paul explains why I find it so easy to identify with David’s emotions. I can’t work a slingshot, but I still have battles to fight:

Ephesians 6:12 NKJV For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.

Peter understands it, too.

I Peter 5:8 NKJV Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered awhile, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.

Identify the Players

In the absence of an enemy with a body, my fight is on the inside. In my head is occasionally a voice I would never allow to speak to someone I love. It lashes out at me for not moving fast enough, not accomplishing enough, eating too much, sitting too much. Hormonal fluctuations and creative frustrations make me more vulnerable at times.

Peter’s experience with Jesus demonstrates how our thoughts can be manipulated by the devil. Because of his love for Jesus, Peter tried to shush his Friend when He talked about death. Jesus knew what was about to happen and was trying to steel himself and prepare his friends for it. Peter’s words echoed the temptation that had been presented to Jesus in the desert, and Jesus recognized it. That’s when He spoke His famous line, “Get behind me, Satan!” in Matthew 16:23. He had just finished announcing that Peter was the rock on which his church would be built, so logic dictates that he wasn’t calling Peter “Satan.” Over the years, I’ve become quicker at recognizing the devil’s manipulations in my own life, especially those times when a gas line of criticism opens inside my head and attempts to steal my oxygen and leaden my bones. There’s a reason he’s called the Tempter, the King of Lies and The Accuser.

Link Arms

I read the Psalms and feel I’m linking arms with David. He faced flesh and swords. I face darkness and discouragement. Both of us talk with fearless honesty to the Lover of our souls and then we turn our chins up to Him and trust. Trusting is initially a decision, but it becomes an instinct as day after day God proves Himself faithful and present. I wrote a song based on Psalm 118, whose verses seemed to be aimed directly at me, at my friend who used to cut herself in anger, at my friends coping with addictions and at those dealing with depression.

Psalm 118:5NIV In my anguish, I cried to the Lord and He answered by setting me free…13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me…17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

My arm-linking song is called “Today,” and it’s a livingroom recording with JT Gentry. You can listen to it here.

What are other things we can do to deal with struggle?

Spiritual Tai Chi

The most effective tools are those that stay sharp. Practicing self-care regularly communing with God and nurturing a couple of healthy friendships are a little like Tai Chi. Believe it or not, that slow motion martial art builds useful battle skills and terrific balance. The practice of self-awareness and God-awareness make us more resilient and capable. A praying friend means that you always have someone on your side. David didn’t go it alone—he had traveling buds.

Tomorrow, we’ll take this one step further. For now, read Psalm 1. Verses 1-3 are fundamental guidance for the Christian walk. My mom used to read that chapter to each of us kids until we pretty much memorized it, and I’m glad.

Lord, thank You for building our skills before we need them. Thanks for being our Friend as well as our Savior, for devoting so much effort to making Yourself known to us. Heighten our awareness, so that we can identify the tactics of the one who would stop us from doing Your will. Strengthen us so that we can stand firm and hold tightly to Your hand. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

She Says Psalms are Scary

The musician's gym: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/171970754586?item=171970754586&lgeo=1&vectorid=229466&rmvSB=true
The musician’s gym: http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/171970754586?item=171970754586&lgeo=1&vectorid=229466&rmvSB=true

DIG THIS: If you click on no other links in today’s post, make sure to click on this one: The Psalms from Ghana will have you snapping your fingers all day long!

When I was a kid, most of our worship songs consisted of Bible verses to which we vigorously danced. If you haven’t heard of the Holy Spirit Hop, you’re missing out. Other verses were sung to slow, prayerful tunes in minor keys. Many of them were from the Psalms, and I can’t read a chapter today without seeing my Grandma Roberta playing the organ, red hair bouncing and freckled limbs flying. Her feet worked the long line of pedals and her fingers leapt from one keyboard to the other. She didn’t need a gym to get a good workout. If you don’t believe me, watch Todd Grivetti.

Having grown up with songs like “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever,” I was shocked when my friend said that the Psalms are kinda scary, and tough for her to get through. I read them again and well, I can understand how a globally minded, grace-blessed, peace-loving person might be jarred by King David asking God to “Consume them in wrath!” Psalm 59:13 He even shouts to his enemies, “Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!” Psalm 137:9 NKJV

Err… Dude, are you okay?

Permission to Feel

I adore him anyway. Here’s why: David left 150 songs of raw, unabashedly human emotion. His extreme joy, dark anguish and steady trust give me permission to admit to my own feelings. His flow teaches me how to cope. He expressed himself a little differently than I might, but our lives are significantly different. Slavery and invasion happened on his street and not just on the internet. Psalm 137 was written as a response from slaves whose captors demanded a song for entertainment. My days are spent doing the things I love with people I enjoy; David was hunted by murderous gangs. During his early years, he lived in caves, hiding from jealous King Saul, and in old age he was forced to run from his previously trusted advisors and his own homicidal son, Absalom. He didn’t want to kill them, but he didn’t want to be killed either. Even when he was on the throne, he wasn’t exactly sheltered—he was in politics.

Feel but Don’t Fold

In poetic detail, he expressed frustration and fear but never let them drive him down. He’d give his heart space to talk and then respond with peace and stillness:

Psalm 42:5 NKJVWhy are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

Keep Gold in Your Pocket

He inserted many songs that were 100% joyful, because life is never all bad. It’s full of little perfect moments, and we need to stamp them and carry them with us, like those souvenir coins you make at Silver Dollar City.

Psalm 16:5 NIV Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup; You make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; sure I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”

In Psalm 77, he was sick to death of conflict. He recounted, “I would not be comforted.” So he reached into his pocket.

Psalm 77:10 NIV Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out His right hand. 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember Your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

That process. That is why the Psalms are so important. I’m going to talk about this more over the next couple of days, but for today talk to God. Read one or more of the Psalms I’ve mentioned and reflect on which one connects to you right now. The Bible isn’t a textbook that we read all the way through, take a final and move on to the next class. We read a little for history, to see how God spoke to people in their own language in different eras; we read for a deeper understanding of our relationship with Him; and we read after praying, expecting God to point out verses that He is saying specifically to us today.

Lord, we open our hearts to hear Your voice. Psalms is a lesson in diversity for some, strange but insightful. It’s a journal of a life lived in companionship with You, and we can think of nothing that would be better. Guide us as we read today.