Written by Chad

Before Me

Psalm 16:8-9 “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells (rests) secure.”

Months ago, we began a study on rest that was supposed to be a day but turned into a season. I thought it would be great for everyone else, but I turned out to to be wrong about that, too. This series was pointed straight at my heart, and my life, and this Psalm showed up in a journal like a sledgehammer, on 10/16/18. (I know because I date each entry)

I was gifted this journal that has a passage per page and it has never been far from my side. Which is not to say I write in it often – I’ve had it for over 15 years!!! But I always come back to it and it never fails to inspire. Why don’t I spend more time writing in it? Who knows? There’s lots of things I should do, things that give immeasurably more than they take, that I don’t do and who knows why about those things, either? But that is a discussion for another day. 

Anyway, this Psalm said to often-shaken-me that if I were to only set the Lord before me, then I could be glad, joyful, and rest peacefully. Then, I could abide. Like the Dude (in the Big Lebowski.) 

This made perfect sense, like the lights were finally turned on in the dark room of my soul – an epiphany! – and I would never be the same again. I had attained some new level of enlightenment.

Until I didn’t. And the next season of dark soul rooms began. For me, this time of year is often a catalyst for discouragement and depression. I get shaken, not resting securely at all. 

And this is especially strange because I just gave a months-long sermon series on precisely this. Shouldn’t this be behind me???

Then, yesterday I opened my journal and the passage was Psalm 16:8.

Now, I have seen prayer/Bible verse journals elsewhere and I’ve never replaced this one because all of the ones I see in stores repeat the same 4 verses over and over for 200 sheets. This one is perfect, just perfect, because it does not repeat at all. No other verse repeats in the entire book. And here, 7 pages apart (7 pages!!) (7?!!? 7 is an awfully significant number, isn’t it?), the first repeated verse.

So.

Maybe it’s coincidence, a lazy editor not paying attention. And maybe a coincidence that I was less than diligent with my entries, until this verse hit me right in the middle of a search for answers, for hope. Maybe.

Or maybe it’s something more.

But the answer I did find was for my question, “shouldn’t this be behind me?” And that answer is, sadly, no. It’s a process, and maybe it gets easier and maybe the time in between gets longer and longer, but a life of faith is a daily submission, a conscious decision to lay whatever down and leave it there. And then, when we pick it up again and worry or try to control the whole world and everyone in it, to lay it down again. This time, we promise we’ll leave it down, right? But we don’t. Our expectations or fears or anxieties growl and pace in our heads yet again. But we lay it down, again and again and again, trusting God to take it each time.

And of course, He could take it and keep it. When we demand it back, He could say, “no,” but that’s not really what He does. He gives us the choice to weigh ourselves down with unreasonable chains, gives us the choice to carry it ourselves and also gives us the choice to give it to Him.

And when we don’t, and it hurts so much and steals our peace and I do not abide, maybe He is the ‘something more’ in the coincidences.       

 

New Years Revolution

As the wise philosopher, Bono, singer for transcendent rock band U2, famously sang, “All is quiet on New Years Day.” And it’s a good thing, too. How can a man properly examine what has become of his life amid all the noise and chaos of ordinary time? Obviously, he can’t and, I believe, isn’t supposed to. The intent of a culture of busy-ness and productivity is to beat us into submission, sedated by our own schedules and expectations. Anyway, all is quiet on New Years Day. And it’s a good thing, too.
I’m not one for a resolution, which is long gone by Valentine’s Day. However, my son mistakenly asked me if I have a ‘New Years Revolution,’ and I am always one for a revolution. So, this is my revolution.

First, resolutions fail because they are, usually, no more than throwing pennies into a fountain, no more than pie-in-the-sky wishes. They fail because there is no ‘Why’ to give any depth to the what. And it’s the why that matters, the why is the reason anything succeeds or fails, the reason we care. Lose 10 pounds? Because you want to see a smaller number on your jeans? Or because you want to live this wonderful gift you’ve been given instead of wasting it on the couch, or because you’re exhausted self consciously avoiding your life because of how you look in the jeans you already have?

There is a difference, and it lies in the why. The Scriptures begin with an account of the Creation of the everything. The interesting thing about this is that it’s a poem. We who are so enlightened, who are so educated, have now decided that we want our Creation story in scientific terms. What did it sound like when God spoke? Was there a Big Bang? What do you mean by a day? What about evolution? Dinosaurs? How exactly did all of this happen? But that’s not what we get.

We can read about music notes and theory, or we can hear “Round Here” by the Counting Crows. One gives us knowledge – and that is very important. One bypasses our heads and breaks our hearts – perhaps even more important.
An art museum isn’t Wikipedia. And it doesn’t try. The Scriptures, and the Creation account in particular, don’t try, either.

(Some places in this beautiful library are history, some are parables, some are letters written to specific people. Just like my library, on my bookshelf. I don’t have all non-fiction, or all graphic novels. The Bible is a library.)

They are linked by Truth, wherever it is found. In what actually happened, a story, a letter… Or a poem. Genesis 1 doesn’t tell us how, it tells us why. Why we are here, why we love what we love, why we do what we do. And it’s the why that matters. So, this is my revolution. I want to live a poem. I happen to care a lot about words and notes and theory, but those things only serve to bring me a step or two closer to having my heart broken into. I want to know how, but only in the service of the why. And it’s the why that makes these days far more than an existence. It makes them a life.