Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Looking Anew at the Psalms

I always used to wonder about the Psalms. I mean, there are some really pretty poems in that book, right? Who doesn’t love Psalm 23, for example? And I’ve always liked the ones that clearly prophesied things about Jesus, like in Psalm 22:

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and my  feet–
I can count all my bones–
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.” (v. 14-18)

But outside of the clear references to Jesus and the sweeter, most oft-quoted poetry, I never really cared for the Psalms.

And I sort of felt like they were poems old people liked. I mean, they don’t even rhyme in English. And I’m sure the rhthym is all off too. Not like Shakespeare. Or even Dickinson–with her half rhymes and rhythmic verses. Or e. e. cummings, whose creativity in poetry just makes you think. “anyone lived in a pretty how town/ (with up so floating many bells down).” Love that.

The rest of the Bible is a little easier for me. More concrete. You know when God is telling you to do something or live a certain way. There are stories and you can analyze them and think about their application in your own life. You can read and puzzle over Revelation and Daniel, wondering what everything really looked like to John and Daniel in these visions they’ve recorded. Trying to see what they see. But the Psalms require something different.

I’m not sure what that is. Empathy? Personal suffering? Doubts? A vision of a God who is Love? And maybe all of those things and more.

Infertility has been pain, my suffering. It has made me question God and caused me to examine him to see who he really is. It has brought me to my knees and  brought me to his throne. And it has taken me to the Psalms.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

 

“Ask of me and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:8

 

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4

 

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” Psalm 4:1

 

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread you rprotection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.” Psalm 5:11

And there are 150 Psalms recorded in the Bible. Praise God for this source of wisdom and empathy. For this instruction in speaking to God and relating to and understanding who he is. For this emotional connection to him and to his word that we have in the Psalms like nowhere else. Praise God for opening my eyes to the beauty in these poems, to the meat in them, to the way they can speak powerfully in my life. Praise God.

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Series on Pause

Guys–I’m taking a break from my “They Were Called” series. It’s not necessarily finished, but I know if I write a post on it today (and maybe even if I do it next week) it will be forced and not inspired and, well, that would be a waste. I’ve really enjoyed studying some of these men and women who were called to do great things. Some got to do what they wanted, some were called to better, some were called to different. But they were all called by God. And God equipped them to fulfill their callings, even if the equipping sometimes meant allowing trials and difficulties in their lives. Like Hannah, who wouldn’t have been motivated to give Samuel over to God if not for her infertility, I like to think that I am being used by God in some way while I wait. I have more people I want to write about–Abraham (and Sarah), Joseph, Elizabeth–but I can’t do it justice today. So please forgive this “pause” on my series. I have other things to write, other things I want to focus on right now. But I will come back to this, God willing.

If you missed one of the posts in the series, you can access them all here or individually:

Introduction: Working for My Calling

Episode 1: David Asked, “How Long, O Lord?”

Episode 2: Moses Looked to the Reward

Episode 3: Hannah Took It to the Lord

Episode 4: Noah Chose to Build

Episode 5: Jonah Liked His Way Better

Episode 6: Anna Proclaimed Christ

[And stay tuned for my next post to vote on a name for our new kitten.]


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Hannah Took It to the Lord

Today happens to be the first anniversary of my blog. When I started this blog, I am sure I expected to have a child by now. Instead, we are still waiting for our miracle pregnancy. But while our outward circumstances have not changed, we have grown and matured in our trial. We have felt God’s peace. We have wavered but not fallen. We have waited expectantly and waited reluctantly. And we are learning to trust, to relinquish fear and worry in favor of reliance on God and faith in his goodness.

So it seems fitting that today is the day I said I would write about Hannah’s calling.

One of the things that strikes me about Hannah is that her calling was more than she probably thought or ever realized. God uses her story to give hope to so many others who know the pain of infertility, the pain of longing for an answered prayer. Surely the example she sets is one part of her calling from the Lord. Being a role model, having “fame” in this way, is not something she would have expected or asked for, but her life has been used by God for our good and his glory over and over.

What we see as our calling may be only a small part of what God has truly called us to do. 

But I’m jumping ahead.

Hannah’s husband was a man who loved her. Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. Each year, Elkanah would take his family to make sacrifices at the temple. Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of meat because he loved her, but Peninah mocked Hannah because Hannah was barren. [Mocked? And to think I get so upset at “just adopt” and “just relax” from well-meaning, albeit ignorant, fertile folks.]

We never see Hannah retaliate. But she does grieve. She grieves and she refuses to eat. In an effort to comfort her, Elkanah asks, “Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?” Ah, but the pain of infertility is so great. [Thank you, God that DH understands and is struggling with me.] Hannah, though loved, is really alone in her grief.

I wonder what she thinks about. Does she wonder, as I have wondered, why God would give her the desire to be a mother without the children to bear that out? Does she feel a lack of purpose, a lack of meaning without children? Did she dream of motherhood as a girl? Was raising children something she looked forward to?

One year, while they are in Jerusalem to make their sacrifices to the Lord, Hannah goes to the temple and prays. In her prayer, she shows that God is gracious to hear us. He listens to our needs. And we are right and justified to ask him for that which we long for. The Bible says, “And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor shall ever be used on his head.” (I Samuel 1:11)

Eli, the priest, who watches her as she prays, wrongly assumes she is drunk and confronts her. Upon finding that she is praying, he says, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” (1:17)

Hannah does go in peace: “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1:18b)

So, Hannah feels called to be a mother. Year after year goes by and she remains childless. Her husband’s other wife (who Melanie has [sweetly] speculated he may have married only because Hannah was barren–I encourage you to read her post) not only has children but regularly mocks Hannah for her barrenness. Her husband loves her but doesn’t understand her pain and, essentially, urges her to just be happy with what she has. Hannah doesn’t give up. She places her hopes before the Lord, seeking his help because he alone can provide what she longs for. After pouring her heart out to God, she leaves with peace. Even while her circumstances are unchanged, her countenance is different.

Oh how I praise the Lord for providing us with peace–however tenuous it may sometimes seem–in the midst of this heartache. I look back at the past year and see that I am different than I was at the beginning of this journey. I am changed for the better–though my circumstances remain largely unchanged.

This isn’t the end of the story for Hannah. She does bear a son. She calls him Samuel. And she fulfills her vow. After Samuel is weaned, she takes him to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord. She leaves him there.

I cannot even imagine! Hannah receives the blessing of a son, but she is with him for only a very short time. She will now see him just once a year when Elkanah brings his family to the temple. Upon leaving Samuel at the temple this first time, Hannah lifts up praises to God for the answered prayer.

Samuel becomes the final judge of Israel. He is a prophet and God speaks to him. He anoints the first two kings of Israel under God’s direction. Hannah’s faithfulness and prayer were key to God’s story for his people Israel.

And God is gracious to Hannah in her faithfulness. She goes on to have three more sons and two daughters (I Samuel 1:21).

Hannah: Called to be a mother. And called to set an example for us in prayer and praise, in being genuine before the Lord. She waited years to be able to fulfill her calling.  Without that wait, the pain, and heartache, would Samuel have been dedicated to the Lord? Would we know that we can pour out our hearts in agony and grief to God while asking for specific requests? God had a plan and a purpose in giving Hannah her deep-seated desire to be a mother. And I trust he has a plan and a purpose for each of us in the midst of our difficulties, our trials, our insecurities.

So we keep turning to him.

This is episode 3 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 2, about Moses and the calling he didn’t want, click here. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. Join me next Monday for episode 4.


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Moses Looked to the Reward

The time of Moses’ birth was a difficult period for the Jewish people. They were enslaved in Egypt, and Pharaoh, afraid that the Hebrews were becoming too populous, decreed that all male Jewish infants should be killed at birth. The story of how Moses ended up adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter is one we tell the youngest children in Sunday school. It’s a lovely story: The baby that should have been killed is discovered floating in a basket and catches the eye of the Pharaoh’s daughter. He is raised in the palace and his own mother is brought in to be his nurse. He grows up with an understanding of his culture and heritage, but he also grows up in a king’s family.

Moses’ rescue of his people from slavery is another popular Sunday school story. It sounds exciting, even thrilling. Moses is called to save his people and to bring them to the land God had promised hundreds of years earlier to their ancestors.

And so the difficulty starts. First of all, Moses doesn’t want the job. His first response when God speaks to him from a burning bush is to make a series of excuses, ultimately ending in Exodus 4:13 by saying, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

This part really hits home for me as we’re dealing with infertility. I don’t want to be infertile. I want a normal family-building trajectory. I want to have a baby whose first birthday we should have recently celebrated. But, whether I will ultimately be a mother or not, I cannot deny that I have been called to go through infertility at this time.

It also hits me because I’ve been considering what I should do with myself lately. Part of me feels like pursuing anything other than motherhood would indicate that I am giving up on that dream. That wrestling match is a subject for another post. And lately, I have been feeling like I need to look into adoption more seriously. I don’t know that we are called to adopt, but I do know that right now it’s not what I want to be called to do. I’ve mentioned some of my reservations about adopting before. And if we end up going that route it will only be because the Lord has done a mighty work to change my heart on the issue. Nonetheless, I have been feeling compelled to look into it.

So I feel like I can really relate to Moses here. He gets a calling he doesn’t want. That is the beginning of his hardship.

From that despised calling, we see Moses suffer even more. He had difficulty with the Israelites from day one. It makes no difference that God shows them again and again that he is faithful. It makes no difference that they walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. It makes no difference that God’s very presence accompanies them day and night. The Israelites like to whine.

Moses is called to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land. And because of their—shall we say misbehavior?—their journey is extended by 40 years. He had to be feeling so close! But no, not finished yet.

Moses is called to show the Israelites how to be God’s people. I can’t blame him for not relishing that task!

And ultimately, because of Moses’ own pride or lack of trust, he does not get to join the people in the Promised Land when they finally get there. He dies on a mountain top instead.

At one point, when the Israelites are whining for Moses to give them meat to eat, see Moses’ response to God:

Where am I going to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness” (Numbers 11:13-15).

These are the words of a distressed and desperate man.

His calling wasn’t all bad, of course. Throughout his life, Moses spoke with God. He met with the Lord all. the. time. He delivered the law to the people. He is credited with putting the oral history of the Jewish people into writing. And he was permitted to see God. What glory! What wondrous grace!  

And where would we be without Moses? He is remembered as a man of great faith. His mention in Hebrews 11, often referred to as the “Hall of Faith,” encompasses seven full verses, including,

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11: 24-26).

And so I am reminded of a few things:

  1. I don’t know the full story God has planned.
  2. I should trust God with my life, even if he is calling me to something other than motherhood.
  3. I should be looking to the reward.
  4. The road isn’t always easy.

This is episode 2 of my “They Were Called” series. To see episode 1, about David and his calling, click here. For the introduction to the series, click here. For episode 3, about how Hannah had to wait to fulfill her calling, click here.


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David Asked, “How Long O Lord?”

Months ago I introduced what I planned to make my first blog series. And then I never even wrote the first article in the series. Oops. So for that, “This is my first blog series. We’ll see how it goes” comment in the intro article, we can go ahead and conclude that it didn’t go well. It didn’t go at all. 

But I didn’t forget it. And this time I’m doing it right. I hope.

The crux of that introductory post was that being called to do something doesn’t mean it will be easy. I find this idea comforting as we deal with infertility. When we first received our diagnosis, I questioned my calling. Am I not supposed to be a mother?

Today, I will say I don’t know what I am called to be. But I do know I desire to be a mother. And I do know that simply facing hardship along the way does not indicate that I am not supposed to have children of my own. I know that’s true, because there are plenty of people in the Bible who are clearly called to do specific things but face great difficulty getting to their objectives. For the next several Mondays, I’ll be writing about some of these biblical people and the challenges they faced on the way to becoming who God called them to be.

I’m starting this series with David. I chose to begin with David for a few reasons:

  • His calling is indisputable. As the anointed (read: chosen) king of Israel, there can be no doubt that God fully intended for David to be king.
  • His hardship is indisputable. David spent years of his life hiding from King Saul (who wanted to kill him). He was apart from his family. He had to spend time living among his enemies. And he documented his hardship in the Psalms, so we can be sure that David wasn’t hanging out in those caves thinking, “Yeah—this is the life.
  • It’s difficult to find meaning in his hardship. Sometimes we face difficulties in life that the perspective of time helps us see were for our good. We can look back at what we’ve been through and see that it was good that things didn’t go the way we wanted when we wanted. We can see that we’ve grown from certain hardships. Or we can see that the path we ended up taking because of a challenge was a better path, the path we were supposed to take.
    But sometimes we can’t see why things happened the way they did. We may not know the value or reason for such hardships until we get a chance to ask God himself. When we look at the hardships David endured, it’s not like we can say, “Good thing he spent all those years of his life suffering and on the run from King Saul. Because of that hardship he was a better king.” Maybe he was better for it. The fact is, we don’t know.
    It is nice to have the Psalms, to see how we can cry out to God when we are in agony—so that’s a benefit to us of David’s hardship. But who knows how David saw his hardship or what he learned from it. Did he ever look back and take delight in his most dire circumstances and how they shaped him? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t.
  • David is rewarded for his faithfulness. Despite facing such challenging circumstances, David continues to trust God and to serve God throughout his life. He doesn’t turn against God when his circumstances are difficult or unbearable. And he speaks honestly to God about what he is feeling. He sets an example for us. He is a sinner, and he suffers for it. But he also finds forgiveness in God’s mercy. He has a heart after God’s own heart. And it is through David’s line that God chooses to bring the Messiah. Jesus is the ultimate king from the line of David. And David is honored by having a place in Christ’s lineage. 

This is an aside, but I think it applies as we try to discern God’s calling in our lives: When David volunteered to fight Goliath, he was a young boy. King Saul initially tells him he is too young to fight. After Saul finally consents in I Samuel 17:37, “Then Saul gave David his own armor–a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. ‘I can’t go in these,’ he protested to Saul. ‘I’m not used to them.’ So David took them off again.” (I Samuel 17:38-39) You see, we can’t wear someone else’s armor. We can’t try to be like someone else. We are who God created and called us to be. Trying to be someone else will only wear us down or wear us out, as David would have been as a boy in a man’s armor. To triumph in the battles we face, we have to be true to who we are.

I could go into great detail about how—and how long—David suffered, but I don’t think that’s necessary (for more on David’s life, see I and II Samuel and many of the Psalms). But David’s Psalms of suffering serve as examples to us to help us voice our pain and desperation to God when we face hardships of many kinds. I leave you with Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

~~~

For the second episode in this series, on Moses, click here.


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Learning to Know God Intimately

God is really doing a work in me. While I have been neglecting my relationship with God, he is slowly, sweetly wooing me to an intimacy with him beyond my imagination.

Pelicans

When God wants to get a message across, I love how he does it over and over and over. Apparently he knows subtlety doesn’t work with me–or that this message is too important for subtlety.

And I can’t help but feel that I should be the one striving to have a relationship with God–not the other way around.  He does not need my friendship, there is nothing I can offer him, yet I am convinced there is nothing the Father would not do to woo me to himself.

From today’s reading in my One Year Bible (NLT), God repeated this relationship theme three times. These verses reinforce both how I need that relationship with God and why I am so very blessed to have the opportunity to be in a right and restored relationship with him!

As David is passing the kingdom to Solomon he gives this advice I needed to hear:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (I Chronicles 28:9).

And we have the privilege of having this relationship, as Paul writes:

“So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:11).

And finally:

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18)

What a beautiful reminder of the lengths God has gone to get to us. As blessed as I am by my friendships on this earth, how much more of a blessing it is to have the God of the Universe as a dear and intimate friend.