I believe I have mentioned a time or two on this blog that despite my musical family, I am just not one to listen to music in the car. Most of the time I am listening to Cohen, my constant chatter box. Pre-Cohen (which admittedly is becoming nearly impossible to remember) I would talk on the phone and occasionally out loud… you can act like you think I am strange, but you know when you’re alone, you do it too 🙂
Thursday morning we woke up late (when did 7:20 become ‘late’ !?!?) and had to hit the ground running. Cohen had an accident around 3a so after sheet changing and mattress cleaning and tucking him in again, we were all having a hard time waking up when the alarms went off a few hours later. Cohen was apparently still tired on the drive to work/preschool and was oddly quiet. I found myself flipping through the AM channels for the short drive from our house to the other end of town.
I stopped on a station just long enough to hear the Bible teacher ending a morning devotion on Gideon and faith and fear. He ended his segment with a quote from General Patton that I have been chewing for better than a day now.
Have you ever been afraid? I mean, not like walking through a corn maze or watching one of those silly movies but like really, truly unsteadied by gripping fear? About a year ago, I remember asking Pastor Ricks about how to handle fear about all of the ‘could be’ outcomes of a situation in my family. He gave me sound counsel, admitting that what I was dealing with wasn’t child’s play… it was weighty stuff.
I spent my last waking hour Wednesday night on the phone with a dear friend I’ve never (yet!) had the chance to meet face to face. She and I met like many of you- here/online/the blog world. We have recently had some similar battles and so occasional phone calls help us support and pray for each other. She’s dealing with some weighty stuff too.
Last night I spent some of the last of my waking moments on the phone with a dear friend whose beautiful face I’ve had the pleasure of beholding now for years. She had something she needed to tell me. So she did and we both felt the weight of it. I was glad for the call – for the information- but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t on my mind through the night and one of my first thoughts this morning.
The last few years of my life I unwittingly became accustomed to living on the edge of my seat; the edge of my life. I was trusting God and somehow still waiting for that proverbial other shoe to drop… makes me pray that I am was not and am not like the double minded person that James writes about- the one who asks of God and doubts at the same time. James says in essence “that person should expect to receive nothing from God”. Still, the Lord has come through again and again for me and for my family, going above and beyond what I could have even imagined asking for. So, maybe more than being double minded, I was expecting God to come through and others to continue to make messes He would need to rectify. That’s probably a fair assessment.
Like the light brimming around the edge of cloud, fear was always outlining my best efforts and thoughts and even, at times, my faith. I would wake with a pit in my stomach, playing the ‘worst case scenario’ with my life… imagining all of the could-be’s, praying to God to help me be stronger, to trust more whole-heartedly.
But something has shifted… a page has turned.
Last week I received three separate messages- all reminding me that the Lord has taken up my case in some things that lie ahead of me. Two were phone calls encouraging my faith and repeating a Word for me from the Lord. The last message came via facebook from a woman of faith at my church. She and I know each other casually at best. Her husband and I work at the same place and I know the names of their three children and that’s about it. She knows about as much about my life. Her faith and faithfulness to God is well known in our community. I don’t call her a woman of faith as a pleasantry. She said while she was praying early in the morning, the Lord brought us to mind and that she felt strongly I should read through the Psalms, highlighting and meditating on the each phrase describing the rescuing, warring nature of God.
General Patton is remembered as a brave man of war, though he denied his own bravery upon being asked about it. In his autobiography he wrote this insight about what it takes to move forward in the face of weightiness, “I was not counseled by my fear”.
My alarm was to go off at 5am. I have one alarm set for 5a and another for 5:30a. David’s alarm is set to start playing soft music at 5a and to begin an annoying set of beeps closer to 6a. For two morning people, it occurs to me that it is kind of funny to have so many alarms set. I guess that is still on the docket of marital details to be worked out. Anyway, I woke up at 4:45 and just stayed awake. Having had disrupted sleep since Cohen “needed” me at 1a, I just gave up on the idea that fifteen more minutes would be even be helpful. I laid awake, waiting for David’s alarm to begin playing worship music from his ipod. It started and my husband, still fully asleep, rolled over and began to whisper prayers in my ear. As Jason Upton sang “my beloved” over and over again, describing opening a door to the Lord, my heart shook off the small lingering heaviness and restlessness of the night.
Sitting on my cream colored leather couch before the mammoth 15′ by 9′ (empty) built-in bookshelves in my living room, I am drinking a cup of very stout black coffee and reading and meditating by the soft light of a side table lamp. I love this point of the morning… no one else is awake and all I hear is the fan in Cohen’s bedroom and his moving around on his bed and the furnace turning on and off as scheduled. The smell of coffee is the most active happening so far and I can feel myself just being present with the Lord. In a very similar way, I rested my head on my husband’s chest last evening and just wanted the comfort of closeness without too many words. Sometimes words are effortlessly trumped by Presence.
In the sweetness of this silence, my heart has been opened up more deeply to think about General Patton’s insight into what other’s saw as bravery and also to what the Psalmist David had to say about what he had permitted to counsel him.
In Psalm 13 David, in speaking about his feeling forgotten of God, says “How long shall I take counsel in my soul? Having sorrow in my heart all the day?” The Amplified version says it this way, “How long must I lay up cares within me and have sorrow in my heart day after day?”
In Psalm 16 David says this: “I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken”.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I am assuming that many of you have had real reasons to fear and to seek counsel. I assume that many – if not all of you- can identify times in your life when you’ve been counseled by fear or your own sadness and hopefully, by times when the Lord is so set before you that His voice is all you can hear.
Fear is the opposite of faith and cannot stand in the presence of perfect love. And yet, with a God who loves us so flawlessly and who requires sincere faith, how often we, His children, find ourselves held back and tripped up by fear! You know why the enemy of your soul attacks you this way, right? Because more than anything else the enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy in you, he wants your mame your faith. Why? Because without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is the baseline, starting point of walking in step with the Spirit. If the enemy can get you to side step the Mighty Love of God just long enough to make you doubt your Father’s intent or love or ability, then he has you a hop skip and a jump from deflating your own faith. And the more counsel you ingest by way of fear, the more you will find your ears dull to God’s words and your will limp to do as He asks.
The Psalmists admits to taking counsel from his own soul and the sadness in it. Have you ever noticed how your flesh will speak if you give it an audience? Last night my friend Bethny and I went for a late night power walk around our neighborhood. She jogged to my house and we put on stocking caps and headed out. It wasn’t long before we were telling on ourselves. We have a habit of doing that. She told me about her husband misspeaking and her dramatic reaction. I told a similar story and we laughed at our like-mindedness. At one point we ended up talking about the dialogue that accompanies our thought processes in the midst of conflict. There’s what you are thinking rationally and what the Lord is saying and then there’s this… this other speaking. You know what I am talking about… its that voice that is so soft and so influential that if you don’t stop to examine your own heart you might not even notice it. It is the voice that fuels and informs your emotions… the one that pats your indignation on the back, good games pride, and helps you to come up with those super hurtful zingers?
Just listen to David in Psalm 13, wallowing in his sorrow:
“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say ‘I have overcome him’, And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken…”
I mean if this isn’t forget-all-that-God-has-done-for-me-pity-party 101, then I don’t know what is! At the end of the song (as is often the case) David has to admit that the Lord has dealt “bountifully” with him. In the middle of it, his soul’s counsel has him defeated, belly aching, and hopeless.
In the recent past I can see how often I let fear have my ear. This morning I am realizing how less than 8 hours ago I was quick to incline my ear to my own soul’s counsel; that I was quick to say, “here we go again” or “will this never end, Lord!?!?”
One of the last things David said to me last night in regard to my concerns was “Babe, it is already done; settled; taken care of.” I went to sleep holding onto my husband’s steady faith, knowing how right he is. All that lies ahead is already known to the Lord; His feet have already tread the path. I am just waiting for the unfolding of His will. I drifted off asking the Lord to let David’s faith being a shield around our family; a covering; a protection.
Even so, last night my sleep was full of dreams of what could go wrong punctuated by wakefulness at times when I should have been resting. The mind works out what it can when we sleep, but only the Lord can really resolve a matter.
As I read Psalm 16 this morning it has become my prayer. Pray it over yourself and seek the Lord today about whose counsel you taking in your own life. Be blessed my friends.
Psalm 16:5-11 [Amplified version]
“The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup;”
You are my inheritance, Jesus. You are my sustenance. You are Goodness and Provision allotted to me. I choose You because You first chose me. I love You because You first loved me.
“You hold and maintain my lot.”
Everything that is mine comes from You. Indeed, EVERYTHING that is comes from You. I am not responsible to make anything, hold anything together, protect what is mine. You are the One. You are My Shepherd, My Father, the Lifter of my Head.
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage (the NASB says “Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me”)”
Jesus, how truly BEAUTIFUL is the lineage You have grafted me into. How radiant – how glorious! You have made the boundaries of my life pleasant and supplied everything good thing. My heart is thankful, brimming and overflowing, Jesus.
“I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel;”
I WILL bless you Father. Thank you for your Word; Your Truth; Your Speaking. Thank you for speaking enacting a better covenant; for the shedding of Your blood which spoke and continues to speak better than the blood of Abel. Thank You for giving wisdom liberally to all who ask. I am asking Lord… be my counselor, Lord. Push out every other voice. I agree with You.
“yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.”
Let my heart resound with Your truth. Let my meditations day and night be on Your Word. Let my heart overflow with songs about Your goodness. In place of restless nights I ask for night seasons full of hearing from you. Instead of anxious dreaming, I ask for visions of You.
“I have set the Lord continually before me;”
I will look to you, Jesus. I will put you in the front of my mind, my heart, my eyes.
“because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
I set you at the position of Authority and Ruler and Advisor. Be my stay, O Lord. May I be steadied and sure hearted because of You.
“Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices;”
My heart IS glad and my whole self blesses you; my whole self gives you thanks. Bless Your sweet name, Jesus.
“my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety,”
Thank you for rest- physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. I say that You will do as You have promised and give me rest round about. Thank you for making us safe, for letting us burrow down deep and stretch out in the safety of Your will.
“For You will not abandon me to Sheol [the place of dead],”
…and nor will I give heed to any voice which would say that You have or will ever abandon us.
“neither will You suffer Your holy one to see corruption.”
…for Your Name’s sake, Jesus… because You are the Holy One who never decays or gives out or rusts..
“You will show me the path of life;”
… and I will walk in it.
“in Your Presence is fullness of joy,”
Yes, Amen. So let it be.
“at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
Thank you Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you.