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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 27’

Waiting is hard enough; now I understand I must wait with an attitude . . . a good one.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. [Psalm 27:13-14, NIV]

I’m thinking it’s really not about the waiting at all. I’m thinking the message is about faith, and once I am secure in the goodness and Presence of God, waiting becomes a by-product. I don’t need to be concerned about time or results then.

Confidence is built on a foundation of belief. This reality is not just in the spiritual realm but in anything I tackle. Of course, misplaced beliefs can morph into obsessions. Not good. In fact, the more I think about it, the only safe place for faith is in God alone. Despite their best efforts (including my own), people will disappoint, things will break, circumstances will change, colors will fade.

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

One other requirement: I must look (really look) to see the goodness of God in this world. My eyes are too often blinded; my brain so much in high gear, that I miss the moment. I miss the “yes” of life.

“But as for me, I enjoy shooting a picture. Being present. It’s a way of saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It’s like the last three words of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is one of the most tremendous works which have ever been written. It’s “Yes, yes, yes.” And photography is like that. It’s yes, yes, yes. And there are no maybes. All the maybes should go to the trash, because it’s an instant, it’s a moment, it’s there! And it’s respect of it and tremendous enjoyment to say, “Yes!” Even if it’s something you hate. Yes! It’s an affirmation.” [Henri Cartier-Bresson]

 

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I want to know about God’s face.

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” Do not hide Your face from me . . . “ [Psalm 27:7-9a, NAS]

First of all, as we all know, God (or the Eternal One as God is called in the Voice translation), is not human but fully Spirit, operating in the Universe both of it and in it, above it and below it.

In Exodus 33:20, God tells Moses that no human can see God’s face and live. I used to think that a glimpse would kill a person, but clearly, that’s not the whole story since in Exodus 33:11, it is written that God spoke to Moses face to face.

Detail from a beaded quilt by "Kitty," based on God's eye design.

Detail from a beaded quilt by “Kitty,” based on God’s eye design.

All right, there’s no surprise here. We are dealing with figurative language. It’s not God who has a face but human. And the place of face in relationships is meaningful to us, right? It is important, when having a conversation with someone, to look them in the eye, to interact face to face. It is the face that reveals the most about a person (unless they have schooled their faces, like a poker player, to reveal nothing). But most of us common folk expose ourselves through the face either by what we speak, by the way our eyes register understanding (or lack thereof), the color and heat of the skin, or the flare of our nostrils. Most of our senses are connected to the physical face.

Poem after poem is written about the face, the eyes, the lips and all that is revealed. The eyes are often called the window to the soul.

When the face of another is turned away from us, a message is being spoken (usually not a good one). Usually, the person is hiding what he/she is thinking or feeling. When turned away, the person is withholding information.

So, what do I imply from this verse? God touches my heart and spirit within and says, “Seek to know me” . . . that is what it means to seek God’s face. God is indicating that intimacy is possible as well as revelation and understanding. Look for God among us. Our answers from God come to us through experience with God, through “God’s face.” But, if we are insensitive to God (just as we might be insensitive to the human face), we could be missing the message.

Help me Father to seek your face, to know you, to learn of of you, to see you.

For fun, here’s a little online test that tests our “emotional intelligence” with people. What do you learn from it?

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ei_quiz/

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When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

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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?  [Psalm 27:1, NIV]

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Antelope Canyon, Wikipedia Commons

Three words drove my prayers from this verse: light, stronghold, and fear.

There are so many different kinds of light but they all get similar results: they transform the appearance of a place or thing by illuminating it. Light pushes back darkness. Light is often a reflection of energy. “God is light, and in God, there no darkness at all.” [I John 1:5] Light reveals things that are hidden. Light is no respecter of persons. Light does not judge, Light is.

And apparently, the presence of Light (the Light) gives confidence against the people, situations or causes I might fear.

A stronghold is best described as a fortified place which has been created as the best (and often the last) line of defense. It is like safe within a bank or a tower within a castle. It is built with defense and safety in mind. This, then, is within me as well. There is a location within me that is protected by the Holy Spirit. This place cannot be breached without permission, an open door or window, opened from within. This is where God’s Spirit dwells in tandem with my own spirit.

But fear is also a strong word and it manifests most often through people. It is unfortunate how often I engage people (and my fear) before I engage my place of strength within or before I shed the Light on the situation. This task is to be done daily, hourly, and even minute by minute. Some people call it centering.

I want to stop “reacting” and simply be fully in the moment and allow that moment to be what it is and me to be who I am in Christ. That’s one of the reasons why it’s called “the peace that passes understanding.” That place is not always apparent if I don’t practice being there.

It is prayer from the place of strength. It is prayer of abandon and trust. It is authentic and transparent.

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fortressThe 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?  [Psalm 27:1]

A stronghold is a fortress or castle, a fortified refuge, a secure citadel. In Western culture, this is not a strong concept.

Contemporary forts and military installations may have guards at the gate, but really, it’s not that hard to get onto the property. However, if other military bases are similar to the Aberdeen Proving Ground which is nearby, there is an area that is completely secure, most locals call it “behind the fence.” It’s not that the entire base doesn’t have fencing, but this area is specifically top secret. It is next to impossible to get in there without proper identification. It is secure, it is a citadel and it is inside the larger complex.

In some ways, I think the stronghold of God is the same way. It’s within me. My body may suffer from external harm: I can be injured and I can become ill. But, the soul, my very Spirit, is “behind the fence.” It’s part of the covenant I have with the Christ. This was the agreement God made with human: invite Christ in and a fortress is built.

The only time this stronghold is breached is when I open the doors and windows myself, when I allow danger too close, when I engage with thoughts or activities that can hurt me. Joyce Meyer has a series called “Battlefield of the Mind” and it is one of her best. This is the area that is partially our responsibility. There is  an amusing commercial sponsored by an exterminating company in which a giant bug comes to the front door of a home. The home owners open the door and are stunned at the insect’s presence. There is a choice: let him in or close the door.

This day, I want to be aware of the fortress of Christ within me, the Presence, the strength that is available to me if I trust the walls of Spirit, if I keep the door closed to harm.

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If I arrange a meet up with a previously unfamiliar person in a public place, we exchange identifiers: I’ll be wearing a red scarf or the other person will wear a straw hat. We do this to recognize one another. In the case of Christ, light recognizes Light. How will I know Jesus? “You’ll know,” God says, “you’ll know.”

II Corinthians 4:6
For God . . . made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

This is of great comfort to me. We live in a world of charlatans and an array of “Elmer Gantrys,” who work hard to deceive the people around them. I have feared being deceived. But here, God promises the illumination of knowledge in my soul will guide me to recognize the true face of Jesus, the glory of God.

“When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant.” [Exodus 34:33b-35a]

The face of Jesus is luminous because of God’s glory within, not just reflected, like Moses. An object is either luminous (generates its own light) or illuminated (reflects light).

When a person’s face is relaxed and open, that face radiates and reflects warmth. Some examples that come to my mind are mothers with their newborn children, children in sleep, brides in love; we have all seen it at one time or another. When Jesus walked among the people, He had that look, that Light, all the time. It was catching. Jesus’s face reflected in the faces of the people.

“As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul.” [Matthew Henry commentary]

I cannot stand face to face with the physical Jesus today. This illumination is now within. This Light is in the worship, in prayer, in contemplation.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek. [Psalm 27:8]

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Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.


I know He forgives. I know He hears. I know He knows. And so I clamor… what is taking so long? What more must I do? And today, He says, “Wait!” I dislike waiting. It doesn’t feel active enough…. at least, not in my heart. Intellectually, I understand…. but waiting in the heart, feels like an endless time of sitting on my hands.

Waiting at the crosswalk… when the light is yellow and I could still make it.
Waiting at the RR crossing… when the train is in sight, but a long way away… I could still make it.
Waiting by choice is much more difficult than waiting because of outside constraints.

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