150 Days in the Psalms

Most of you know that I’ve been working on a Psalms Project for some time now. I still have quite a ways to go with it, and every time I think I’m making progress, I find that I have so much more to learn. The Psalms have always been my favorite passages of Scripture because of the musicality and rhythm; the longing and gutwrenching honesty; and for the deep, rich theology. But in the midst of my studying and reading and writing for the Psalms Project, I confess that my time has become more studious than intimate. It has been so long since I’ve read the Psalms with the intent of simply praying and communing with God. So when my friend, Nicole, mentioned 150 Days in the Psalms, I knew I had to jump in, face first.

The plan, from the Mercy Is New blog, is this:

Each Day:

  • Read 1 Psalm.
  • Write 1 verse from that Psalm as your focus & prayer for the day.
  • Pray through the Psalm.
  • Journal through the Psalm.

Seems simple enough! If you’d like to participate, let me know! We begin August 1, and this journey will take us through the end of 2016. We have a small facebook group started where we can encourage one another, share any insights or prayers that God is impressing upon us. I will gladly add you to the group!

And if you’re not sure what it means to “pray through” or “journal through” the Psalms, go subscribe to the Mercy Is New blog! It is packed with resources to help you learn how to pray Scripture and use journaling to grow your relationship with Christ. I am new to her blog myself, but I am loving it! She also provides a printable schedule for an easy reminder of which Psalm you should be on each day.

It has been so long since I’ve journaled Scripture. It has been so very long. I confess that I’m nervous about this. While I don’t think the journaling is mandatory, I want to really dig into this experience with all of my heart. It will be a good exercise for me after being so focused on the studying part for so long.

What do you say? Will you join me on this exciting journey?

Pax Christe.

semmie

 

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The RNC & the “is a vote for Hillary” Fallacy

Listen, I get it. I don’t want a Hillary presidency anymore than the next conservative. I hear the reasoning. I hear the concern in friends’ voices when they say, “yeah, but Hillary.” I really get it. I am there with you. And maybe the right thing to do is to vote against her. I’m open to that, but I’m sure not going to let that be my default position.

Over and over, folks have said that “a vote against Trump is a vote for Hillary.”

Uhm. No.

A vote for Hillary is a vote for Hillary. Voting one’s conscience should never be ridiculed because it doesn’t accomplish the agenda of someone (or a party) one cannot support. That’s ridiculous. Of course it’s not going to accomplish the agenda of the RNC if I vote Third Party! That’s exactly the point, America!

It’s like saying that if I don’t vote for Hillary, I am voting against a woman’s right to choose abortion. Well, uhm, yeah–I’m pro-life, so…I wouldn’t really align my vote with the Democratic Party’s agenda, there, would I?

The RNC has proven to me that it simply doesn’t desire my vote in the Presidential Election. Why is it my problem if they cannot, then, garner enough votes to prevent a Hillary presidency? That’s their problem, not mine. The very fact that I am considering a Third Party vote should clue-in the RNC to the fact that my agenda is not aligned with theirs. So if it’s their agenda to stop Hillary, go for it. Stop her. But don’t tell me it’s my fault if she wins, because my agenda, my conviction, is something far different than simply roadblocking a politician.

And I’ll note that the opposite isn’t true, either. A vote against Hillary is not a vote for Trump.

I understand. I really do. I am very aware of the fact that our Two Party system is not likely to see a Third Party in the White House any time soon. I struggle every day with the feeling that my vote will not affect any change. But it is change. It is changing. Our nation is changing, friends. And I don’t want my name to be on the wrong side of history with the changes we’re seeing.

So.

Whichever side of the aisle you find yourself on today, if you think your side has the moral high ground, I hope you have a life preserver.

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On Sorrow & Grief

It’s important to grieve.

It’s natural to grieve.

It is good to grieve.

Many (particularly Christians, for some reason) try to coax a premature joy in the midst of sorrow–from each other as well as ourselves. I am terribly guilty of this lately. I hear myself saying to my closest friends and family that “I just want to get back to normal.” It comes, I’m sure, with the best of intentions. But sorrow does not mean the absence of peace. Grief does not mean we have refused joy. And joy is not always something we can conjure. It is something that comes in its time–in its appropriate time.

I think we mistake joy for a flame we can produce, like striking a match. And maybe in some moments, in some regards, we can.

In the midst of grief, however, I think joy comes more like the sunrise, an undeniable light and warmth and life after hours (or days…or weeks…or months…maybe even years) of the cold, dark, loneliness of night.

And how does the sun rise?

Does the sun appear instantly in the day sky, like someone flipped a switch?

No, the answer is in the question: The sun rises.

In our experience, it may occur quickly or it may occur slowly, but it always occurs from an earthbound vantage as rising. It comes upon our world bit by bit, inch by inch, until it covers all we know in the revelation of daylight.

I think–though I’ll be the first to confess to you that I don’t have extensive experience with joy as most people would express it–this is how joy comes upon us. Sorrow and grief are the dark hours of the night, and there is no sense in arguing about where the daylight is. We may have other lights to help us, to guide us, to give us hope and courage–the moon, the stars, the aurora, the galaxy (and perhaps in this we could talk about the moon being a reflection of the light for which we long; I’m sure there’s something there to discuss)–but none of that satisfies our longing for the risen sun. And even as it comes, it is a process. It is a subtle change from black to deep violet; from deep violet to an intense blue and a few less stars; a blue to a soft green, waking birds and critters from their reverie; a soft green to an amazing orange and pink; and then–yes, then–suddenly, a brilliant day sky.

And in that moment, I think we have a tendency to say one of two things (or maybe, sometimes, both). The first is, “Thank God! I survived the night!” The second is, “Beautiful!”

Isn’t it funny? The thing that we so long for, that so eludes us in our grief, that seems such a distant dream we may never attain–that, itself, is something we call beauty. Beauty comes out of mess and struggle and sorrow. Don’t ever forget.

It reminds me of one of my favorite passages in scripture (and the reason, primarily, that I dared to begin my Psalms Project).

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8, NIV)

Morning and evening do not flip like a switch. Morning dawns. Evening fades. And where (not when, but where) those subtle changes occur, God calls forth songs of joy. This idea is repeated in the passage God showed me more than twenty years ago.

weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5, NIV)

Can we trust Him to bring us through our sorrow to that place where He fills us with irrepressible songs of joy? We can.

We must, friends. We must. For it is only in our sorrow, in our struggle, that we can recognize our deep need for His presence and joy. It is only in brokenness that we can yearn to be made whole. If we never experienced sorrow, joy would be our default; and while I grant you that this may be very nice, it would, I think, become so commonplace as to lose something in our estimation.

Maybe you view joy and sorrow differently than I–and that’s okay. I’m not here to judge you or say you’ve got it wrong. I’m here to encourage those who are grieving and who can’t yet find joy in the midst of it. If that’s you, if you’re caught in a struggle or despair that you can’t wrestle yourself out of, take heart.

Take heart.

Night does not last forever.

Joy is not a bird that flutters away each time you get close. It is a gift that is granted freely from a God who cherishes every hair on your head.

Sorrow may last for the night; joy comes in the morning. That is His promise–to you, to me, to all who love Him and are called by His name.

Do not fear your sorrows, for it is the blessing of grief that gives birth to the blessing of joy.

Pax Christe.

semmie.

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On the Loss of a Dear Uncle

One week ago, I grieved after my uncle’s funeral.

Two weeks ago, my uncle died.

Three weeks ago, I held his hand and whispered my love and goodbyes to him.

It happens so quickly and in such a blur that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like reality. It’s more like an alternate reality. It’s as if you are suspended but time is still passing, and you don’t notice the disconnect until the alternate stops and you’re thrust back into your normal life and routine. It is no easy thing, to lose someone you love.

And that is as it should be, I suppose. The enormity of grief is a testament to relationship. Or perhaps more accurately, grief is a testament to love, for it is very well true that one may grieve for a person with whom she did not have a close relationship. I think, in particularly, of children who have estranged parents: There may be an unquenchable grief at losing a parent in such a case, simply because–though they loved one another–the relationship was broken and left unmended. Such a grief is likely greater than I can imagine. I do not envy it, and so I take this moment to remind myself and my friends: Do not leave wounds unmended; we only have so many opportunities to forgive.

My relationship with my uncle was one that grew out of my own brokenness. As a child, I didn’t know my mother’s family well. We didn’t see or hear much from them–and vice versa–because we were geographically removed. Her family thrived on a closeness of proximity, and that was something we lacked. I wrote to him, honestly, not desiring a relationship with him so much as I desired to know more about my grandfather who had died several years before my birth. I’m not sure I recognized it at the time, but I was greatly struggling with my identity–who I was, where I belonged–and somehow, he reached through all of those questions and touched my heart. “You belong with me,” he assured me over and over by his actions. And the amazing thing is, I believed him. I absolutely believed him.

There has not been a moment of my relationship with him when I’ve questioned his love for me. There has not been a moment when I’ve questioned whether I could call or write or show up on his doorstep and cry all over his shoulder. There has not been a moment when I’ve questioned whether he believed in me and my dreams. He brought hope and joy and laughter to a gal who was hurting and lost. These are the gifts of love. These are the gifts I will cherish and hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.

It doesn’t erase the sorrow of losing him. I suspect it never will. It does, however, allow a clear, obvious, logical, and satisfying resolution to a beautiful piece of music that has permeated my life. When we leave a relationship unmended and we lose the person, it’s like being cut off in the middle the symphony. We are left without a sense of finality, without the final chord that resolves all of the tension that has been slowly building over time.

In a couple of weeks, my family will be gathering for our Reunion. It is a time I always look forward to sharing with my dear uncle. It will be difficult for many of us, to be sure. I hope, however, that it will also be a balm to us, to embrace and remind one another that we are family and we love one another and we grieve together.

In the meantime, dear friends, remember that it’s okay to grieve.

Pax Christe.

semmie

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Compassion Writing Stationary

For those of you who sponsor kids through Compassion, here are some great letter writing templates! I am always on the lookout for new ones, but I don’t like really busy ones. I like ones that allow me to actually write a letter. I’m loving the purple with the heart!

 

Source: Compassion Writing Stationary

 

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