The Places

There were times over the last two years that we hardly went anywhere and that was as much of a challenge as going places. In fact, we thought more about where we were going and who might be there over the last couple of years than we could have ever imagined.

So he we are, living in a freer world — stepping out and moving about, albeit a little cautiously. The places we are going may just be that: nothing special — simply locations. But there is effort and energy in the movement and we have to go.

Are there places you need to go but to don’t care to? Are there places you are excited about? Are there places you are dreading?

Me too. And God is in all those places. When I am heading to the places I need to get to, it helps me to remember that God goes before me, He comes behind me, and He hems me in. He is with me in all of the places.

When I need to go to a place I would rather not be, I say,

Be near me, Lord Jesus!

Give thanks to the Lord.

Psalm 136:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord.

I don’t know your circumstance. You might be experiencing health, financial, or relational challenges. In spite of these potential scenarios, I encourage you to give thanks. God is good. Your situation might be devastating, but circumstances can’t change God’s nature.

I have been guilty of equating God being good with things going “my way”. Have you? When I am weak, discouraged, or worn down I am susceptible to this mode of thinking. When I am angry or if I have been violated or if someone I love has been injured, I might be tempted to forget God’s goodness. But I cannot.

I encourage you to remember God’s goodness.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

Psalm 121:1-3

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

I know when I am discouraged, disappointed, or depressed I often look down. I look downtrodden. I don’t see all that is in front of me.

The simple practice of lifting my eyes and looking up makes a difference on my countenance. And when I do so, recognizing Who it is that I am looking to for assistance, I am in a good place. I am in a place of humility. I am recognizing that I have a need and I am seeking God for the solution.

My help comes from the Lord.

From daily tasks to huge obstacles, God wants to provide solutions and encouragement. He has things for us to learn along the way, but He is a problem solver. He is a life giver. And He is my sustainer.

As you look at the day and week ahead, look up — seek His face. Ask God to be in your work and play.

Be still before the Lord.

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Be still before the Lord. 

I am in a season of learning this. Sometimes I am too patient, but most times I am just impatient. I am mainly impatient with myself– with my progress, or, more typically, lack of progress. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the cycle of doing stuff — anything to keep myself busy when that isn’t probably what needs to happen. Being still before the Lord is a process. It’s a way for my mind and heart and spirit to be quiet before God.

I love to meditate on a short passage of Scripture. It doesn’t actually have to be an entire verse. It can be a snippet. If I read it and it is resounding in me, I like to see why. Of course, all of Scripture can resonate with me, but every verse doesn’t grab my attention at the same time. It can’t. Focusing somewhere means you are not focusing somewhere else. And so when I am busy doing something, it takes away from my being still and hearing God.

Be still before the Lord.

When was your last uninterrupted time of stillness with God. What have you missed hearing because you were too busy doing? Give Him an opportunity to shine His wisdom on your life!

O my Strength.

Psalm 59:16-17

16 But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love.

O my Strength.

How often do I think I can do it “myself”. We have two grandchildren between the ages of 2 and 3 and we are seeing an increased amount of independence. Of course, that is normal and age appropriate. And the rest of life seems to be all about finding the balance between our physical and mental independence, strength, ability, dependence, and how it ebbs and flows during the years. And then, there is the spiritual side of things. In our weakness we see God’s strength. We wrestle with our circumstances. Does our own strength even matter? Are we stronger when we allow God’s strength to be shown? Can we be patient and let God do His work?

When we look to God for His wisdom and His strength, He will deliver. He is our fortress, our deliverer. He shows us His steadfast love.

O my Strength.

Be merciful to me.

Psalm 57:1-3

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
    he will put to shame him who tramples on me. 
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Be merciful to me.

His mercies are new every morning. Do we start each day remembering God’s mercies?

I know there are times when my day simply starts and I don’t always pause to pray or dedicate my day to God and leave space for His work. But, I know my days always start better when I do. Recognizing my position in this world is important, especially in comparison to God. That isn’t to say that the things I am doing are unimportant, it’s just that knowing who I am in relationship to God helps me keep things in perspective. God…fulfills his purpose for me.

The Lord is my light and salvation.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

The Lord is my light and salvation
whom shall I fear?

There is a lot of fear going around these days. We are not quite through a pandemic which has altered many of our lives and livelihoods. And now there is a war in Ukraine. I can’t really stop any of these things that are going on in the world. But I can run to God with my fears and confusion.

Lord, be my salvation. Be the stronghold of my life. Be my confidence and truth. Be my defender. Be my healer. Be the one that knows the bigger picture and sees how it works together. Be the one I trust in all things. Hear me when I am afraid. Help me trust in You.

The Lord is my light and salvation
whom shall I fear?

I give thanks to you.

 Psalm 86:8-13

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart.

My whole heart. My undivided heart. That heart that cannot curse and bless at the same time. That’s the heart David is talking about.

I can imagine David. His whole heart ready to burst — overflowing with the thankfulness for God’s gifts of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. When we are burden with sin, it’s a heavy load to carry. When we recognize all that God sees and knows about us and and that He still loves us, it is an amazing thing. We are His creation. And He provides for us in ways that are beyond our comprehension.

It’s true we don’t get everything we want. Even those honorable things that seem like they would be good things aren’t always meant for us. Getting to the point of being thankful in all circumstances is a journey of surrender.

But it can begin today.

What difficult things can you look back on in your life and see where God has done some beautiful work? If you have some history with God, you have seen His provision in action. You know what He can do — even if it takes years for it to come to fruition.

What is today’s circumstance that has you wondering is He sees or knows or even cares? Let me encourage you to give thanks to Him for what He has done and what He is going to do. Even if you can’t start with your whole heart, start with part of your heart. As you look back on what He has done, it gets easier to trust Him with your heart. It may start off as bits and pieces, but, between remembering His work in the past and giving thanks for today, you will find that more and more of your heart will participate.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart.

Unite my heart.

 Psalm 86:8-13

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Unite my heart to fear your name.

Have you ever had a divided heart? They aren’t hard to come by. I find myself longing for that thing I should not be longing for or I am stuck between choosing what is the right thing to do and the thing I would rather do. Maybe you have some other scenarios playing in your head. I want my heart to trust in God so I don’t have to look longingly at that other thing that I don’t need in my life. I want to “fear His name” with that sense of awe and reverence. While God is certainly all powerful, I never really look at His power as something to be fearful of in the current understanding of the word. Merriam-Webster defined fear as profound reverence and awe, especially towards God. That fits.

Even when I have really struggled with the burden of sin and consequences I never saw God as one to be afraid of so I appreciate the difference in the use of the word fear in the definition above. Not that God loves sin, He certainly doesn’t. But His patient love for me, even when I am in the middle of being ridiculous, is always evident.

Lord, unite my heart so it is undivided and that is is Yours. Let the rhythm of Your breath of life set the beat of my heart and let it all be for Your glory! Amen.

Teach me your way.

Psalm 86:8-13

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth
;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth.

I never have to worry about whether or not God will teach me. But, as I am learning in my Hungarian lessons, sometimes it takes me a long time to learn something. The teaching is there — no doubt about that. But, am I a willing and interested student? And, as I am learning to walk in God’s truth, will I stumble and fall, just like a toddler does when they are starting out?

Absolutely.

I am pretty sure I am harder on myself about this than God is on me. I just need to remain teachable. I am in my 50s but I know there is still a lifetime of learning ahead of me!

P.S. Yesterday was a busy day and I wrote out the PrayerPoint but completely forgot to hit the publish button…so you ended up with two PrayerPoints today!