Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful: Plants, Pillars, And No Outcries

Last Thursday I drove halfway across the state (which only takes an hour here in Massachusetts) to meet my friend Betsy for coffee at Panera. Betsy moved to the Boston area this past summer and left me without one of my dearest friends in town and my every-Thursday-morning-running-partner. After coffee with Betsy, my friend Christina showed up for lunch. We talked Betsy into joining us for soup and salad, and it ended up being a wonderful morning of catching up and me getting to introduce two of my good friends to each other.

Christina and I had about an hour together after Betsy left, and she asked me how I'd been doing lately. It was a knowing and intentional question, since it had been just over a year that Robert and I reached out to Christina and her husband for some counsel, friendship, and support.  As a fellow pastor's family, they were so encouraging to us during what had become a really confusing and challenging time. As we drove away from their house last October, I don't think we realized just how challenging the coming year would become - probably one of the most difficult and emotional years of our marriage, ministry, and parenting. And not because a lot of terrible things were happening at the time, but rather a lot of things had happened in the previous 3-4 (or maybe 7) years that had taken their toll without us realizing it.

As I thought about how to respond to Christina's question, Psalm 144 immediately came to my mind. I had just read it a couple of days prior, and used it both as a prayer for the future as well as a way to give thanks for all that the Lord has accomplished in the past year.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my lovingkindness and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge... v. 1-2

The Lord had truly been our rock, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield. He used the difficulties to remind us that we are indeed in a war here on earth,
here in Amherst, MA,
here in a church,
here in a family.
here in our own hearts.

He sharpened our battle skills and our weapons. And He gave refuge in the form of Christina and her husband as well as another pastor-turned-friend with whom we met regularly. It was hard, but as usual with a God who is redemptive in all His ways, it was good.

I was telling Christina about how the Psalm paints such a vibrant picture of a flourishing home and family life through what the Psalmist, David, requests...

Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace. 
v. 12

...and how my sons and daughter are becoming these things - mature and wise young men who are making good and godly choices and a young woman strong, beautiful, bearing up under trial, and full of integrity.

Grown up plants.

A corner pillar as for a palace.
Our kids have been such a joy to us in recent months. We marvel at their hard work in school and in their part-time jobs. We miss them when are scattered across the country and state. We laugh at their stories. We pray for their mid terms and oral presentations, for their dating adventures and their break ups. We text and SnapChat and Face Time. We share secrets and inside jokes. The kids themselves keep in regular contact and truly enjoy one another as siblings and friends. They are growing up, blossoming, and bearing fruit. They are standing firm and adorning the palace, the household of God. They are a blessing, and I thank the Lord for the privilege of raising them, of knowing them.

Oh, I know it could change in the blink of an eye. Tragedy, sickness, conflict, rebellion, sin. No one is immune to these things, and even I was in a much different place this time last year. It did not feel like a time of peace and abundance last October. I talk with other moms regularly whose kids are either suffering personally, or rebelling against them and God, or both. It is truly heartbreaking, and so I give thanks to God for this season of flourishing in my own home.
Last home football game of his senior year.  So bittersweet.
Freshman Orientation at Gordon College.
Sweet Sixteen and a budding artist in many areas.
I'm also grateful for a husband who prioritized me, my concerns, complaints, critiques, and consternation. He truly made them his own. More than that, he pointed us to Christ.  He prayed when I couldn't. He pressed in when he didn't want to. He sought to understand what was really going on and what God was teaching both of us.
Lots of mountain climbing this year... ;-)
We just came in from our morning run, and I was able to tell him these things, to tell him how thankful for him I am. It was a hard year, but he was patient and proactive.  And all the while, faithfully (and bravely!) teaching truth to our millennial congregation and training leaders to do the same. I am so thankful for his unwavering faith in God and his faithfulness to me.
He had no choice but to dance with it was John and Olivia's Grease hit - "You're the one that I want"

The verses that follow continue to illustrate a desired a time of abundance and blessing...

Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce, and our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; let our cattle bear without mishap and without loss, 
let there be no outcry in the streets!

How blessed are the people who are so situated; 
how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! v. 13-15

Though David is asking to be rescued in this Psalm, his prayer is one of hope and vision. Though he's asking that God scatter his enemies and protect him from their weapons and deceptions, he trusts in God's ability to bring about justice and blessing. Though things look very grim for David, his trust is not in his current circumstances, it is in his covenantal God. He knows a time of abundance is coming both in this life and even more so in the life to come.

There has been a a lot of outcry in our nation's streets lately. I read Psalm 144 just after the election, and could not help thinking of the many protests, the school walkouts, the picketing, the boycotting, and all of the Facebook/Twitter outrage. Just across the street from us, Amherst College canceled classes and had counselors on hand. A block in the other direction, UMass sent campus wide emails about "safe spaces" and opting out of mid-terms due to distress. In next door Northampton, MA, Smith College placed "tissue stations" all over campus for women grieving and depressed and fearful.

I had a lot of snarky thoughts on all of these things, but then I remembered Psalm 144. The request/vision of David that there "be no outcry in the streets" was directly related to "how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord." The people whose God is also the Savior don't need to be outraged. They don't need to rant on Facebook and thereby reveal themselves as bigoted as they accuse the other side of being. They don't need to fear or accuse or blame. (Many of my female, black, latino, immigrant, homosexual friends feel the same, in case you may be inclined to attribute my peace to privilege rather than to Christ.)

They are not without concern, of course. There is work to do especially for those of us whose God is the Lord, for those of us who are the body of Christ. But there is no need for outcry except to God Himself on behalf of a nation who does not know Him, and has no hope except in laws, and courts, and policies. May they come to know real hope. May they come to know the One who loves them and longs to be their fortress, deliverer, shield, and refuge, the One who can and will subdue their enemies and grant peace and hope in the midst of the war.

How blessed are the people who are so situated... v. 15

So, I'm thankful today.  Thankful to be "so situated." Thankful to have been through a year of challenge and brought into a time of blessing and abundance.

Grown up plants.

Corner pillars.

No outcries in the streets.

My situation may change. In fact, it's a given. So when that time comes, will you remind me of Psalm 144 and of David's hope in spite of fear and war?

Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Mel! Love you, K&J