Tag Archives: grief

1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

There is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. (1 Samuel 24:1, NLT)

Saul leaves one fight to pursue another. Could his heart ever be satisfied? Would the threats ever stop tormenting him? Is he the hunter or the hunted?

David’s in a cave with a force behind him. They encourage him–a deliverance of a sort that could be settled in that instant. I watch David from the shadows and hold my breath as he reaches forward and cuts a piece of Saul’s robe. David’s conscience speaks to him–because there is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

War and gore weren’t new to these men; they were both fighters and leaders–whether for better or worse. What was it fueling Saul? What was it holding David back? While this story reads like a suspense, today, I look past opposing forces and see the heart.

***

A garden untended in a summer gone too fast, and weeds are up to my waist in some places. I climb over the rocky bases and grasp and pull at thorny mile-a-minute, weak-rooted Japanese stiltgrass, and other varieties I know by familiarity than by name–ones that reach, embed, choke out nearby azalea and lilac. This year, I get half through and don’t finish. I think about emotions in a grieving process. I look at the weeds and how quickly they’ve taken over a space. Some being light, but persistent. Others, painful to touch. Some, likely poisonous and tormenting. It is work to remove them. I know the longer I neglect the process, the worse it will become.

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
    and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
    when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
    not even speaking of good things—
    the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
    the hotter I got,
    igniting a fire of words:
Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:1-5, NLT)

At best, a breath.

I got the proof for my parents’ grave marker yesterday–names and dates.

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:6-7, NLT)

My only hope is in you.

***

The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, NLT)

Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8, NLT)

Lord, I turn to your word. It fills me and instructs me. It is a feast, and I celebrate the new bread of sincerity and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30,31; Mark 16

Restore. It’s my word for the year. I notice it throughout the readings.

Micah returns the coins to this mother (Judges).

The Lord speaks in Jeremiah, and restoration pours from his mouth. His words are powerful, and I am encouraged and refreshed by his might.

  • He will bring them home to the land.
  • He will break the yoke from their necks and snap the chains.
  • He will raise up a king.
  • He will give back health and heal wounds.

It goes on, the things he does.

18 This is what the Lord says:
“When I bring Israel home again from captivity
    and restore their fortunes,
Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruins,
    and the palace reconstructed as before.
19 There will be joy and songs of thanksgiving,
    and I will multiply my people, not diminish them;
I will honor them, not despise them.
20     Their children will prosper as they did long ago.
I will establish them as a nation before me,
    and I will punish anyone who hurts them.
21 They will have their own ruler again,
    and he will come from their own people.
I will invite him to approach me,” says the Lord,
    “for who would dare to come unless invited?
22 You will be my people,
    and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:18-22, NLT)

My God who turns mourning into joy. He rebuilds upon the ruins. He restores.

Oh, that I can look upon the loss and heartache and circumstances that have hammered against me these months; they have not been for destruction, but for refining and chiseling–restoration. Breaking of yokes. Snapping of chains.

A tomb is empty (Mark 16).

He lives.

We live, restored.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 18,19; Psalms 149,150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

A land promised and parceled. Psalms of praise! Praise! Clanging words like cymbals. Praise.

Eyes, a fountain of tears. Uncircumcised hearts.

“They do not know me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:3b, NLT.

I reach for the hands of a sister. I crave the embrace of a mother.

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12, NLT)

Lord, teach me. Guide me. My Father, my God, my Hope.

 23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Lord, you hear the cries of my heart. You delight in love and justice and righteousness. Be at work in our hearts.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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Joshua 8; Psalm 139; Jeremiah 2; Matthew 16

I thought a week off from routine would restore me. Now, a second week closing, I feel myself slipping into hermit mode. I pulled up Psalm 139 to read, and I cried. This is a Father’s loving hand upon a daughter’s head. He is right here with me. He knows me best. Even when I slip into hermitting, He comforts me in this new territory of angry grief. He does not abandon me.

(All of Psalm 139, NLT, because it is so good. Emphasis mine.)

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
18 I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

19 O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!
    Get out of my life, you murderers!
20 They blaspheme you;
    your enemies misuse your name.
21 O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you?
    Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you?
22 Yes, I hate them with total hatred,
    for your enemies are my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

 

A friend shared some hurtful things going on in her life, and by all accounts, her anger is justified. But I saw what it was doing to her and those around her. I said, “I get it. I’d be mad too. But how long is enough? How long (of being angry) will make you feel better? I hate to see you work yourself into a pit that’s hard to get out of.”

The words spoke into my life as well. At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to say it, because it can seem so unfair–but maybe the antidote for anger is forgiveness. Because the thing about anger, can it ever be satisfied–especially in circumstances where there is no justice? Some things can’t be taken back or fixed. Anger is like a hot coal being tossed into hands. How do (we) let go when memory sears?

Oh, Lord, point out the offenses. Lead me.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?] Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

Lord, I would be so utterly lost without your word, your love, your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me so much, that even in the angry grief, you don’t leave me. You tell me to get back on my feet and follow you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 49; Luke 2; Job 15; I Corinthians 3

We didn’t have those kinds of talks. He’d tell me about a new recipe, or teach me a crochet stitch, or recount a recent outing. Likely the last words I said to him were, “I’ll talk to you later.”

Only later never came. Goodbye was never said. So many questions never asked, never answered. All of this is hard. And in the grief, I find myself surprised by what surfaces. And this one question: what did my father think of me?

I wasn’t expecting my dad to die that night. He spoke to me as if he weren’t expecting it either. Perhaps our conversation might have gone differently if we had known.

Jacob speaks last words over his sons, and I cry.

Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come. Genesis 49:1, NLT

Some of his words sting and some of his words bless.

In Job, Eliphaz responds to Job, and a shaming storm pours from his mouth.

In Luke, Mary receives words from shepherds, prophecies from Simeon and Anna, and she stores these things in her heart.

When I think of things unsaid, unheard, all the unknown, I wonder if it matters now–because I can’t know. Why does that question and answer matter so much?

I turn my focus to the Lord.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:5-17, NLT

Lord Jesus, I bring my questions to you. I find my peace in you. Your word is the final say and the one that matters. You are truth, and you see truth, and you are judge of deed and heart. I think we all desperately crave to hear your “Well done.” I pray that I keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Please equip me for the tasks at hand, and instruct me in your wisdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 36-37; Acts 23:1-11

I never imagined how this event would mark my life. When the Lord put it on our hearts to move, it was supposed to be a happy time. Wow, I don’t know how many times I’ve said that–it was supposed to be happy. What we took as a step of faith actually was the tipping block for a domino effect of loss, betrayal and wounding. It is three years later, and I often refer to life as before and after.

There’s a familiarity in psalm 37, verses that call out specifically and full of detail. When I read them, my heart responds.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24, NLT

I feel his delight in every detail of my life: from the captain’s bell, a fence and trees for my kids to climb, berries along the perimeter of the yard, to the crazy-amazing scent of the field when I cut the grasses, the lush sound of wind through treetops, the woodland song of owls, crows, hawks.

photo collage ps 37

It is not lost on me that he would use a garden as a place for healing.

I’ve had to let go of a lot of things in these years, but God has filled me up with new things. New friendships, new experiences, new opportunities. I read these verses today with a grateful heart–grateful for a God who holds my hand, even when I stumble. And he will not let go.

Courtney (66books365)

Listening to Phillips, Craig and Dean Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.

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Psalm 28, 29, 30; Acts 21:1-14

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

you have loosed my sackcloth

and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12

People talk about ‘choice’ all the time. To put it simply a choice is an “act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities”. There are all sorts of things to choose on a daily basis and as an adult I make hundreds of choices each week.

Years ago, while struggling with depression I heard the story of the two wolves. I began to realize that I could choose which wolf I fed; I could determine how I perceived things. Before I was a believer, I worked very hard at choosing the positive, looking at the glass half full, and beating down the blues. I strived in myself, and though I did learn how to control the despair, it was still always lurking in the shadows.

When my brother died, I was thrust into a position where I had to make a lot of choices very quickly, choices that changed my life forever. I had only been actively walking with the Lord for about a year but I could still feel the tug of depression even despite hearing the loving words of the Father.

It always amazes me when I hear people blaming God for the bad things that have happened, turning their back on Him in the moments they need Him, His strength the most. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not have survived if it wasn’t for God giving me everything I needed every step of the way.

And, it started with a choice…

The night when I learned what had happened, I immediately laid my heart out in a new way to God, I made the choice to fully trust Him in the surreal journey I was headed into. I made the choice to press into His outstretched arms. I made the choice to obey His voice, His leading. I made the choice to praise Him!

I felt so strongly a calling to worship the Lord in the space where my brother died. I felt it was an opportunity to spiritually cleanse the space and invite God’s presence back in. I knew it was the chance to bless His name in the bad times, and not just in the good.

The next evening, I invited a small group of friends to come with me. We stood in a circle and began to sing worship songs. After a few moments I moved to the center, and I began to dance as David danced before the Ark of the Covenant. I poured myself out to the Lord. I gave him every bit of my being, every ounce of praise in my body. I felt the atmosphere of the room change; I felt the shift happen as God entered this tabernacle of worship.

I made the choice to lift up the name of the Lord. I chose to give thanks and sing praise in the midst of my grief. I chose to taste and see His goodness. As I honored Him, He honored me. He turned my mourning into dancing and clothed me with gladness. He gave me hope.

I still experienced the grieving process, but I had God’s arms around me. Through the difficulties of adjusting to life without my brother, He walked next to me and sometimes carried me. Even in the moments now, when sadness creeps in, He reinforces the hope I have that I will see him again in heaven.

And my heart chooses to praise the Lord!

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan)

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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