Feb 28 2015

Prayer of Psalmody ~ in grief

Published by under Faith,Grief,Thoughts

 

Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In Your faithfulness answer me in Your righteousness!
Psalm 143:1 (ESV)

The book of Psalms is often referred to as the songbook of Scripture, but it is also a prayer book. So would you join me in praying some psalms today as we grieve and yearn and seek God’s face of mercy together? Let’s use the psalms today as our skeleton for prayer, and ask God to hear us as we gather together from various places at various times, but with one mind and one purpose—seeking His favor while glorifying Him even as we fall at His feet in tears of grief and longing. Please pray with me, interjecting your own specific requests as we go along.

Our Father in the glories of heaven, we ask that Your holy name would be honored and glorified as we fall at Your feet. (Matthew 6:9)

Oh Father, we are crying out to You with our voice—to God with the voices You gave us. Please give Your ear to us! We are in days of trouble, and we are seeking You, Lord. The night feels endless, and our souls ache with discomfort. We feel so troubled, even when we remember You and Your sovereignty—it is overwhelming and we need to pour out our anguish before You. (Psalm 77:1-3) Have you cast us off forever? Will Your favor ever return to us? Where did Your mercy go? We know You are faithful, yet did Your promises fail? Where is Your grace? Have You forgotten me? Are You angry at me? Have You put away Your mercy? Oh God, this is my anguish—my fears, my doubts, my pain. But indeed, You have been faithful: I remember the things You have done, for me and for others, now and in the past. Please help us to meditate on Your works, to praise You as we talk of the things You have done. (Psalm 77:10-13) You are our shield, our glory, the One who lifts our head. We are crying to You with our voice, and we ask You to hear us from Your holy hill. Arise, O Lord! Save us, oh our God! Death is our enemy, and we know that You have victory over death and the grave—salvation belongs to You, and we believe in the resurrection, Lord. Please let us see that Your blessing is on Your people—even us, our wombs, our children. (Psalm 3:3-4, 7-8)

You are our Shepherd. Because of You, we do not want for anything—You give us all that we need, food and drink, protection and even delight. You restore our souls, even through the aching grief. Continue to lead us in paths of righteousness for the sake of Your name. But Father, do You see us? We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death! It is so dark in this shadowy valley. Please remind us to fear no evil—even here—because You are with us. Please comfort us with Your rod and Your staff: directing, leading, carrying, tenderly showing us the way through this valley. (Psalm 23:1-4) Deliver us, cover us, be our refuge; gird us with Your truth as our armor for defense and protection. The Lord is our refuge: be our dwelling place so evil and harm will be kept far from us. Keep us in all our ways—whether grieving or rejoicing—reminding us that Your angels keep charge over us. Bear us up, keep us safe: deliver us because we love You, pick us up out of the dust back to the high places because we know Your name. We call to You! Answer us! We are in trouble, Lord God—please be with us, deliver us, and honor us for the sake of Your glory. (Psalm 91:3-4, 9-15)

Oh Lord, our dwelling place, teach us to number our days so that we would be wise in heart. Grant us Your wisdom. How long until we feel Your mercy return to us, O Lord? We, Your servants, seek Your compassion! We want to rejoice, we long to be glad all our days! Please come and satisfy our empty places with Your mercy. We have spent years in affliction, suffering the awful effects of evil and sin—burdened by death. Please restore gladness to us, in the wake of this affliction. Show us Your work! Give us children so that we can show them Your glory! Oh God, pour out Your beauty upon us, by establishing the work of our hands. Great King and Creator of all life, yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:12-17)

Father, I implore Your grace on behalf of so many sisters who are suffering: please, grant them the desires of their hearts, as they glorify You, and fulfil their plans, as they align with Your will. (Psalm 20:4) As we kneel here at Your feet, please hear our cries for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, Your Son who was Himself the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, because it is in His holy name that we pray these things. Greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty are Yours and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours; thank You for hearing our prayers, Head of all creation. (1 Chronicles 29:11) For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.

 

© Melissa Joy, 2014

Written originally for Mommies With Hope, Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven, while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The blessing of motherhood and the blessing of growth in Christ have intersected in a beautiful and challenging way for her, as she embraces being Mommy to twelve beloved children: 3 in her arms, 9 in the heavenly choir. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.

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Feb 27 2015

don’t miss the morning cuddles

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What if you missed hearing the best part of your child’s day because you were on the phone? What if you missed a chance to inhale the sweet scent of your energetic child because you insisted on folding that basket of laundry before bedtime? What if you missed a chance to console your worried spouse because of your mile-long to-do list? What if you missed hearing an unknown childhood memory from your aging parent because you were too busy to call? What if you missed a divine cloud formation in the sky because you were racing to the bank, the post office, and the dry cleaner before you had to pick up the kids? What if one day you realized that all the opportunities you missed couldn’t be retrieved? But it was already too late. What if one day you realized the best moments in life come in the mundane, everyday moments? But you were only fully present on special occasions. What if, instead of rushing through the minutiae of your daily life, you occasionally paused and offered your presence? What if you turned away from the distractions that monopolize your time and attention and grasped the sacred moments passing you by? Turn off the music in the car. Sit next to your child as she plays. Lie in bed with her after you say goodnight. Hug her and don’t let go right away. Tell her something you have been meaning to say. Bend down and look her in the eye when she talks to you. Do these things and see what might unfold. And once the moment is over, reflect back on that moment and realize this painful truth: If I had not paused, that precious moment is what I would have missed.
~Rachel Macy Stafford, Hands Free Mama, p21

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Feb 26 2015

oh, spaetzle!

It was spaetzle that brought me to my senses. Spaetzle, if you do not know, are the very flower of all foods made with flour. They are tiny bits of soft noodle dough, boiled to a light and lovely perfection, and served with butter or gravy. It took only one taste of my wife’s first batch to make me realize that I could not go on as a dieter. Spaetzle exude substantiality: A man who takes a small helping is a man without eyes to see what is in front of him. Accordingly, I passed my plate back for seconds and then thirds, and made a vow then and there to walk more, to split logs every day and, above all to change my religion from the devilish cult of dieting to the godly discipline of fasting.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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To eat nothing at all is more human than to take a little of what cries out for the appetite of a giant. One servingspoonful of spaetzle is like the opening measures of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: any man who walks out early on either proves he doesn’t understand the genre—and he misses the repose of the end. To eat without eating greatly is only to eat by halves.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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Life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never go unsavored.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p27~

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(…and yes, my mother made me some of my very favorite things in gluten free versions!
like schnitzel and spaetzle and peanut butter cream pie!!

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Feb 23 2015

To Pray

 

…Lord, teach us to pray…
Luke 11:1 (ESV)

I went jogging in the peaceful coolness of the early morning. The sun was shining through the trees, the breeze was hitting my face, my ears were filled with sounds of morning songbirds, crowing roosters, bawling cows, and crunching gravel beneath my feet. I don’t like exercising, but I do like being fit—and I like having solitary time to focus my thoughts and tune my heart to God, His creation, His Word. Sometimes I sing psalms while I exercise, sometimes I pray, sometimes I simply weep and trust that the Spirit intercedes for me even when I am speechless.

I love to pray, to commune with my Father—and I’ve been doing it for my entire life. Conversing with Him is as natural as conversing with my earthly father, for I have known both of them that long. But there are times when I don’t really know what to say to my dad, or don’t need to say anything to be heard. Sometimes we just catch each other’s eyes and know the meaning behind it, deep in the other’s heart. Sometimes it is sob-filled, teary phone calls where I’m certain my words are somewhat incoherent, but I need to say them, and he is the one I want to hear them. Sometimes we have long conversations, giving and taking in the banter equally. And sometimes I am so at a loss for words, for whatever reason, that I just don’t even want to begin the conversation.

And I find that my conversations with God parallel these things.

Just a month ago, my morning prayers were filled with almost senseless begging, pleading to God with repetitive requests and endless questions, desperately wondering what He was doing, why I had to suffer this way, practically asking to wrestle blessings from His hands. If you had been listening in, the refrain would have sounded a lot like, “please God! Oh please God! Please, God, just… oh please!” My heart filled in the rest and my tears were the chorus. I could almost sense the robins, the deer, and the squirrels hushing—I imagined it was because the Lord knew the sacredness of this conversation with Him where I was so helpless, and even His woodland creatures hushed their breath and stilled their actions as I jogged by so I could cry and He could listen. This morning, as my feet carried me forward, my heart cried to my Father again. Today was one of the more eloquent days, with fully formed sentences and coherent requests, littered with lists of thanks for His graces, and I honestly sought Him on behalf of others rather than on behalf of myself.

The Lord is with me in all of these things. He hears me in each of these situations, and every one in between. He hears me when I plead with Him on the ultrasound table, He sees me rip out my hair while I wail in grief in an exam room, He bottles my tears in the bathroom over negative pregnancy tests, He embraces my body and soul as I grieve over death and as I expectantly long for reunions in heaven. He hears me on  behalf of my suffering friends and my grieving family members.

As I continue to grow in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I want to deepen my understanding of prayer, enrich my conversations with Him, and learn how to glorify Him with my praise, my requests, my stutters, my tears, my shouts of joy, my cries of anguish. I often sing the Lord’s Prayer, and then take each of the six petitions therein, expounding upon one at a time in spoken prayer, filling out the shape of what Jesus exemplified for us. I often also use the book of psalms to help shape my prayers. I want to embrace asking for God’s will to be done with my whole heart and entire mind. In Matthew 26, Jesus Himself cried out to God as He anticipated His own crucifixion, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (ESV). It is perfectly honorable to follow the example of Christ, and ask the Lord to take this bitter cup of suffering from me—and, trust me, I do that regularly! I’m nigh well sick of the recurrent pregnancy loss journey, and He hears about it from my lips often enough. But even when I ask Him to take away miscarriage from me, when I beg Him to grant us living children, when I come to Him asking for wisdom in pursuing medical avenues and uncovering health complication—even in the midst of those requests—I want to prefer His will over mine. Sometimes I just plain ask Him, “give me the desire to prefer Your will, because honestly, I don’t understand how this plan is better than what I asked of You!” I ask Him to grow me up into His will, into loving His will, into desiring His will, into embracing His will.

So as I continue seeking God’s face in the mornings—as I quiet my soul before Him while the body He gave me exercises in the midst of the nature He placed around me, presenting not only my words but also my body before Him—may He teach me how to speak with Him, glorify Him, make requests of Him, and live fully in communion with Him—not because I want to get things from Him, but because I want Him—and I desire to learn from Him how to pray so that I can get more of Him.

 

© Melissa Joy, 2014

Written originally for Mommies With Hope, Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven, while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The blessing of motherhood and the blessing of growth in Christ have intersected in a beautiful and challenging way for her, as she embraces being Mommy to twelve beloved children: 3 in her arms, 9 in the heavenly choir. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.

 

One response so far

Feb 23 2015

great work

Published by under Faith,Quotes

Prayer does not fit us for the greater work,
prayer is the greater work.

~Oswald Chambers~

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Feb 19 2015

Lenten Thoughts, II

Published by under Church Calendar

If yesterday’s thoughts on Ash Wednesday were my first round of Lenten Thoughts, here are just a couple more.
Yesterday I linked to Pastor Sumpter (a friend, and previous pastor of ours) in defense of observing Lent. Here I will link to Pastor Wilson (another friend, although a peer of my parents rather than myself, and another previous pastor of ours; in fact, the pastor who baptized us when I was 12) in defense of not observing Lent. What I love most about the juxtaposition of these two links I’m sharing is that these two pastors, and their two churches, live in an incredibly tight community, work together in Kingdom work & ministry opportunities, and have the most incredible amount of public grace toward one another. I can not tell you what a blessing it is to witness unity & diversity, smothered with abundant grace, encased in flesh. This is the love of Christ! This is one of the mercies that I long for, as I seek to put my heart into observing the Lenten season this year (not in any prescripted ways, but in whatever way the Lord has put upon my heart to do it): that I would grow in the godliness that rejoices in the unity & diversity of Christianity that comes from God’s people as they trust in Him.

…when things are difficult, when we are disappointed, when it feels like God is taking things away that we love, when it feels like He isn’t loving us, it is frequently just the opposite. It is frequently in those moments that God is actually most loving us. He has something far better in store for us. He has a glory for us that will only fit us if we are dramatically changed. So during this season, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame and has now sat down at the right hand of the Father. Run with endurance. Keep running even when it feels like you’re going to die. Keep trusting your Father that He knows what He’s doing. You know you can trust Him because He sent His beloved Son first. We know that glory awaits, that resurrection awaits because Jesus is risen from the dead, so we can trust Him.

~Toby Sumpter, blog~

Today I have been meditating on Psalm 91, and spent some time using it as a springboard for prayer:

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, Say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

For he will rescue you from the snare of the fowler, from the destroying pestilence. With his pinions he will cover you, and under his wings you shall take refuge; his faithfulness is a buckler and a shield.

You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day; Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right side, near you it shall not come. Rather with your eyes shall you behold and see the requital of the wicked,

Because you have the Lord for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold. No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent. For to his angels he has given command about you that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him; with length of days I will gratify him and will show him my salvation.

And as I continue to meditate on Scripture, study Ecclesiastes, and seek diligence in prayer through Lent by God’s grace (and like someone else said, yes, I should do these things diligently always, but I am a sinner & need reminding!), I am seeking to hold fast to these three points of the Lenten season:

  1. Remind us of our own sinfulness – “my offences truly, I know them; my sin is always before me…” (Ps 50:5)
  2. Call us to turn to God with open hearts“O today listen to His voice, harden not your hearts…” (Ps 94:8) 
  3. Proclaim God’s unending mercy“if you, O Lord should mark our guilt, who would survive?” (Ps 129:3)

 

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Feb 19 2015

Date Night: Daily & Divine

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Food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives, they preoccupy, delight, and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb~

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Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world—this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world—no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness. Try to think yourself through starvation. Try to command yourself not to be hungry, using your own sheer will. It will work for a while, maybe, but at some point you’ll find yourself—no matter how high-minded or iron-willed—face-to-face with your own hungry, and with that hunger, your own humanity.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p250~

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So try it. Try Keller’s three-times plan. Make it once according to the recipe. Then you know how the chef or recipe writer intended it to taste. Practice your scales. And then write your own version of the recipe. And then make it entirely from memory, at which point it’s yours.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p102~

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But our goal, remember, is to feed around our table the people we love. We’re not chefs or restaurateurs or culinary school graduates, and we shouldn’t try to be. Make it the way the people you love want to eat it. Make it the way you love it. Try it a million ways and cross a few off the list because they were terrible, but celebrate the fact that you found a few new ways too—ways that are fresh and possibly unconventional but perfect for your family. That’s the goal. Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p51~

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I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater—mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p11~

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Feb 18 2015

Ash Wednesday

So this is the first year where we will go to an Ash Wednesday service. I am curious… apparently it will be a eucharist service ending with compline. But I don’t really know what to expect of the ash liturgy. Usually the evening services at church are pretty small, and my children will occupy the majority of my mental energies as they will be even more curious than I am. :) But we are looking forward to this opportunity to worship the Lord and fellowship with His people in a new capacity, through the Ash Wednesday service.

Then every Wednesday until Holy Week we will be going to the church for “Lenten soup and lectures” where the whole church will have a soup supper together, and we will study this book together (discussion led by the author himself who is a friend of ours). Steven and I have already read the book, and while it is a short & “easy” read, it is also so deeply honest & raw that it cuts sharply and leaves an impact of blessing and grace.

I have been planning on giving up an hour of sleep every morning during Lent, to focus on prayer and Scripture. This (the actualities of the Lenten season) is all pretty new to me (we’ve been attending an Anglican church since last spring), and I love the beauty in a lot of these things. So this morning, at 6am, I spent a while with the Lord quietly in the darkness of my room. It was beautiful to speak to Him of my husband, my children, our church, our parents. It was good to lay desires before Him, and ask for His will to be done. It was a practice of faith in action. Even though the action seems small, just kneeling and speaking quietly with closed eyes and bowed body, it was big work. And I am eager to see what big things the Lord continues to do through small offerings of prayer, offered in a purposed and habitual way, more diligently planned (so to speak) than is my usual prayer routine.

For another thing, I am going to go through the book of Ecclesiastes, along with this commentary on it that my husband said was enlightening for him. I only read the first chapter of the book, and of Ecclesiastes, but I already agree. The Lord is so good.

May He bless His people, as we seek to follow Him and pursue the light of His countenance.

From dust we came, to dust we shall return. May we turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. May the peace of the Lord be with you. Amen.

…and for some beautifully enlightening reading, please read what our pastor friend wrote here on Lent.

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Feb 14 2015

the goodest of friends

Published by under Friends,Quotes

We got to share meals and space and time and conversation with some of our “goodest” friends (in my son’s words). The kind of friends that you do not get to see more than a couple times a year, but who never feel like you’ve lost time with during the in-between. They are the kind of friends that you want to grow old with, and swap grandkid pictures with when we’re grey, and take annual summer vacations with, and create traditions with. This is a family that is like family to us. We are so indescribably thankful for them, and how God lets us cross distances to stay close.

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…There are things you can’t know,
and questions you can’t ask,
and memories you can’t recover via email and voicemail.
It was about the being there,
about being there to really see
what’s exactly the same and
what’s totally different about each one of us.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p63~

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Share your life with the people you love,
even if it means saving up for a ticket
and going without a few things for a while to make it work.
There are enough long lonely days of the same old thing,
and if you let enough years pass,
and if you let the routine steamroll your life,
you’ll wake up one day, isolated and weary,
and wonder what happened to all those old friends.
~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p65~

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Good friends are like breakfast.
~ Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p65~

2 responses so far

Feb 11 2015

faithful body image

Published by under Beauty,Quotes,Reading

What does the world mean when they speak of having good body image?
The test is simply whether you can look in the mirror and love yourself.
Can you see your body and love it?

But for a Christian woman this question should be completely different.
Good body image for a Christian woman means being able to look in the mirror and love God.
If you can look in the mirror and thank God for the body that He gave you -
that He spoke from nothing when He called you to life -
when He made your heart beat in a secret place,
when out of nothing He crafted you and gave you life.

When you can thank Him for all the challenges that come with this body of yours
because they come from His hand -
this is a far deeper joy than loving yourself.

This is not the shallow joy of having good body image,
but the deep security of having faithful body image.

Pursue that – because it is pursuing your Creator.
Thank Him – for His gifts to us are overwhelming.
Image Him, even as we see ourselves.
~Rachel Jankovic~

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