Dear Father… You are patient and gracious far beyond our deserving. Let us hope for your forgiveness when we can find no way to forgive ourselves. You bless our lives even when we have shown ourselves to be utterly ungrateful and unworthy. May we be strengthened and renewed, to make us less unworthy of blessing, through these your gifts of sustenance, of friendship and family.” – prayed by Jack in Home by Marilynne Robinson
You would have to read the book to understand how beautiful and sad this prayer is. Jack, the “black sheep” of the family prays here and it nearly broke my heart. This is the prayer I need to pray. Every. Single. Day. I identify with the ‘no way to forgive ourselves’ sentiment. And the being blessed even while ungrateful and unworthy.
Prayer doesn’t change things, but prayer lays hold of God who changes things and Who, in prayer, changes you. And sometimes in the midst of it all He gives you the assurance that your plea has been granted. – from The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
I like that part about how God changes us in prayer. And gives us assurance.
The worldview of the wicked still seems to carry the day… Yahweh preserves us, and yet crud rules the day. We don’t particularly like paradoxes, though the Christian life is full of them.
From The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things, Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?” Psalm 12:1-4 –
There is quite a lot to think about here. When I read the following portion, I immediately thought of social media: ”They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.” The thing is, I can’t just say “they”. It’s me, too, speaking idly. Speaking of things with little value. Wasting time.
And then there’s the flattering lips thing. Today that’s just a ‘like’ here and a ‘thumbs up’ there and a ‘beautiful inside and out’ everywhere. Facebook and Instagram are full of flattering lips. Except for the kissing/duck lips. Those are not flattering.
I am so guilty of “the tongue that speaks proud things…”. I fill my instagram with happy moments; I check-in on facebook so people will see I’m busy, not just sitting in front of the TV; I take pictures to say, “See? I have beautiful grandkids! I’m having fun! I am so witty!”
These few verses are packed with admonitions. Application is the key here. It would be so easy to just see that the wicked – the them of the world – are being addressed. And, yes, it does say the godly man ceases. But, there is always a message for us as Christians. When it seems as if they – the world- have won, remember Who is on our side, remember Who is Lord over us.
In the Lord I put my trust; How can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain”? For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
Many of us worry and live in fear. Yes, we are to be wise in our comings and goings; we shouldn’t recklessly put ourselves in dangerous situations. But, often, I think we shy away too much from situations when we don’t trust the Lord. How many of us think, or even say “I don’t want to go to that part of town” when it’s in just “that” neighborhood that people need to hear the Gospel.
Others are preoccupied with stuff and with socking away money for retirement. I don’t recall reading about any of the saints in scripture retiring. We fell prey to the “building bigger barns” syndrome when we bought a house that was larger than we really needed just because we could. And then it was a struggle to maintain.
In this election year, many struggle with the issue of our future as a country. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around all the strange and scary things I read and hear daily. Truly I have to lay this all at the feet of Christ, for I can only pray and trust. I don’t understand the whys, but I know it’s in His hands. Always has been.
Verses 3-4 of Psalm 11 say:
If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.
This is how Dale Ralph Davis puts it in The Way of the Righteous
in the Muck of Life: “Despair is managed by keeping Yahweh himself in the center of your vision.” I thought this was a great summation.
And let me leave you with this one last quote from Davis: “You have not seen Jesus yet you love Jesus. Christians are such conundrums.”
….there are seasons in a believer’s life – and sometimes the seasons change suddenly…Faith is perplexed and yet goes on pleading. The psalmist does not use God’s baffling him as an excuse for disengaging with God but as an incentive to press on with him. from – The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
I don’t know just what season I’m in right now. It’s like the rainy season – sprinkled with showers of doubt; covered in clouds of despair. But sometimes, the clouds will break up and the sun will shine through and I am reminded that God is still there, always there, even when I doubt.
The Psalm begins this way in verses one and two:
Why do You stand afar off, O Lord Why do You hide in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which
they have devised.
Why? I’m always wondering why. I find myself too full of questions and doubt. But, the psalmist sees that God is good in verse fourteen:
But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, To repay it by Your hand.
The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.
And again in verses 17-18:
Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
That the man of the earth may oppress no more.
My prayer for myself is that God would change my whys into words of trust. That I would
trust in Him to shelter me in the days of darkness and give me joy in the rays of His grace.
“ …in tight places you have made space for me.” – The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
David was almost killed by a javelin thrown by Saul, his house was watched by Saul’s henchmen, he was let down through a window and escaped; yet in all this he pleas for and relies on the grace and mercy of God. Oh to have the faith of David!
I can’t say I’ve had the experiences of David. We all have our own trials and temptations, but God knows this. He knows our needs even before we do. I do know that God has relieved me in many distresses but I also know I have clung to crumbling walls and fretted over failures instead of giving my burdens to Him. My prayer today is for mercy.