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Archive for April, 2009

For some, Psalm 89 is just like any other psalm of lament, but for me it is something special. I seem to experience God in the two distinct ways presented here. At times I know God’s promises by heart and cling to them joyfully with trust. But at other times, the promises are gone. I see nothing but darkness. I’m bitter and don’t know how I’ll make it much longer.

You see, I suffer from Bipolar Disorder, a mental illness some may be more familiar with in terms of manic-depression. I know one extreme or the other, rarely the middle ground. And I certainly haven’t figured out the “Blessed be God forever and always! Yes. Oh, yes!” part yet.

But a favorite professor challenged me to befriend my illness, to accept it. He urged me to grieve the losses that are a part of my illness, but in the same breath he challenged me to discover the new life my illness brings. Not that a loss can ever be completely filled by something new, but for every time something is lost, room is made for some sort of gain.

Whoa. Befriend. Accept. New life.

So that’s the journey I am on now, seeking ways to befriend and accept not just my Bipolar but also other areas of stress and anxiety in my life, and trying to discover new life in places where I had assumed only death could reside.

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See below for Parts I-III.

Here’s the hard part.

Dear God,

You promised all this stuff.  You didn’t follow through.  You didn’t even show up.  How long are we supposed to put up with this.

Blessed be God forever and always! Yes, oh yes!

love,

Your people.

Blessed be God forever and always! Yes, oh yes!  That’s The Message. Some versions say:

Praise be to the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen. (NIV)

Blessed be the LORD forevermore!
Amen and Amen. (NKJV)

Our LORD, we praise you forever. Amen and amen. (CEV)

No matter how you say, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Really there’s only one way it makes sense.

Acceptance.

I believe that the people of God could openly and honestly complain because they knew God’s promises, but even more than that, I believe they could complain because they had befriended and accepted their position in life, their place as God’s children.  If they hadn’t arrived at a place of acceptance, the complaining would have done no good at all.  It just would have fueled the fire.

I believe verse 52 is the key to this entire passage, if not all of scripture.  Accepting who we are as God’s children means that we trust that we can trust God.  It means that we accept God’s timing.  It means we believe he wants to hear from us and interact with us.  It means we believe we were created by and for the purpose of glorifying one who is worthy to be praised forever and always. Yes, oh yes.

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Parts I & II are below…

If the first thing to notice is that the people of God knew God’s promises, the second thing to notice is that they had a relationship so intimate and marked by trust that they could complain to God honestly.  They were able to go right back to God, toss his promises in his face and say, what the hell is going on here?  Where the f@ck are you?

And God could take it.  He never struck them down for dialoging with him, only for worshipping other Gods.   Which begs the question, what becomes of our complaints to God if we never openly and honestly complain?  Do they not in their own way become false gods?  We feed them, attend to them, sacrifice to them, and let them rule our lives.

So not only is it okay to be honest with God, we should.

But we can’t unless we first know God’s promises.

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For Part I see below.

My reflections on this particular Psalm will come in four parts, these last three should be rather brief.

For today, what must be said is that David or the psalmist, representing the voice of God’s people knew the promises the Lord had made by heart.  They had internalized them.  They lived and breathed by the very word of God.  So when life didn’t quite work out, they recounted promise after promise that God had made…promise after promise that they had waited to see fulfilled…promise after promise they seemed to see forgotten.

What matters first is not that they complained openly about God’s apparent failure to fulfill his end of the deal.  What matters first and foremost is that the people of God knew the promises.  They were in their hearts and minds and souls and literally even affixed to their foreheads and forearms.  They posted God’s promise at the threshold of their homes and recited them several times daily.  They weren’t the AWANA memory verse champs.  They KNEW God’s promises and they lived expectantly in light of them.

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Person 1: 19-37 A long time ago you spoke in a vision,
you spoke to your faithful beloved:

God:    “I’ve crowned a hero,
I chose the best I could find;
I found David, my servant,
poured holy oil on his head,
And I’ll keep my hand steadily on him,
yes, I’ll stick with him through thick and thin.
No enemy will get the best of him,
no scoundrel will do him in.
I’ll weed out all who oppose him,
I’ll clean out all who hate him.
I’m with him for good and I’ll love him forever;
I’ve set him on high—he’s riding high!
I’ve put Ocean in his one hand, River in the other;
he’ll call out,

Person 2: ‘Oh, my Father—my God, my Rock of Salvation!’

God:   Yes, I’m setting him apart as the First of the royal line,
High King over all of earth’s kings.
I’ll preserve him eternally in my love,
I’ll faithfully do all I so solemnly promised.
I’ll guarantee his family tree
and underwrite his rule.
If his children refuse to do what I tell them,
if they refuse to walk in the way I show them,
If they spit on the directions I give them
and tear up the rules I post for them—
I’ll rub their faces in the dirt of their rebellion
and make them face the music.
But I’ll never throw them out,
never abandon or disown them.
Do you think I’d withdraw my holy promise?
or take back words I’d already spoken?
I’ve given my word, my whole and holy word;
do you think I would lie to David?
His family tree is here for good,
his sovereignty as sure as the sun,
Dependable as the phases of the moon,
inescapable as weather.”

Person 1: 38-52 But God, you did walk off and leave us,
you lost your temper with the one you anointed.
You tore up the promise you made to your servant,
you stomped his crown in the mud.


Person 2:   You blasted his home to kingdom come,
reduced his city to a pile of rubble
Picked clean by wayfaring strangers,
a joke to all the neighbors.

Person 1: You declared a holiday for all his enemies,
and they’re celebrating for all they’re worth.
Angry, you opposed him in battle,
refused to fight on his side;

Person 2:   You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior,
ground his kingly honor in the dirt.
You took the best years of his life
and left him an impotent, ruined husk.


BOTH PEOPLE:  How long do we put up with this, God?
Are you gone for good? Will you hold this grudge forever?


Person 1:   Remember my sorrow and how short life is.
Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
We’ll see death soon enough. Everyone does.
And there’s no back door out of hell.

Person 2:   So where is the love you’re so famous for, Lord?
What happened to your promise to David?
Take a good look at your servant, dear Lord;
I’m the butt of the jokes of all nations,
The taunting jokes of your enemies, God,
as they dog the steps of your dear anointed.

BOTH PEOPLE:  Blessed be God forever and always!
Yes. Oh, yes.

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Well, it’s felt like a couple of heavy cement blocks pressing on my chest, but the doctors say it’s mostly anxiety.  Somatic responses to life stresses are fascinating to me.  And I’ve got them.

When your body outwardly responds to stresses, griefs, frustrations and anxieties on the inside, that’s a somatic response.  It brings new meaning to questions like What’s been weighing on you?  What’s been eating at you?  What is it that you just can’t shake? And observations like, something’s sure wearing you out, you seem heavy.

As a care-giver or simply one who cares about another, we can use our observational skills and a different approach to questions to root out what might be bothering people.  If we notice someone with a sudden an dramatic change in appetite, chances are something really is eating at them.  Because we are fully embodied, meaning our emotions are not separated from who we are, what we do and certainly not detached from our physical selves, it makes much sense to approach ourselves and others with somatically-focused questions.

Especially for some who are less articulate in the emotion department, embodied and somatic questions maybe easier to answer than a vague, how are you doing? A recently unemployed man may respond more readily to a question like what’s been grabbing your attention lately? His answer may be anything from his kids/wife’s annoying habits to pornography.

So what’s with the somatic tangent you may ask?  Well, I was carted away from Palm Sunday service in an ambulance after collapsing because I couldn’t breath.  Some of the issue has been resolved with medication adjustments, but overall, the doctors all agree that my problem is anxiety.  My task now is to figure what’s weighing on me.

Fights about custody.  Overdue school work.  Living in a new city.  Clutter.  I’m sure there’s more, but that’s enough to make me feel like I’ve got cement blocks being pressed against my chest.  Keeping me from breathing.

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