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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 25:15’

Jo 23A few weeks ago, I managed to achieve an almost miraculous feat. I actually threw out all those notes from my theological college days around twenty years ago! Admittedly, I didn’t have the heart to dispense with a few favourite assignments. And admittedly, it also felt as if I was somehow betraying those three very busy but precious years of study. However, it needed to be done—and the memories are still there.

But there’s something else I have even more trouble parting with—and that is my books. When one begins to pack books horizontally on top of those already squished in vertically, it’s pretty obvious something needs to be done! So I decided to begin this daunting task.

As I started, the memories came flooding back. In one section, I found many books on prayer—for nations, for cities, for our churches and their leaders, for individuals. Now I still strongly believe in the power of prayer, but I do not feel this is currently where my main focus is to be. Sometimes God calls us to different ministries at different stages of our lives, I believe. But I remember vividly those many hours spent praying at our church, alone and with others. And I soon became aware of a strange mixture of joy, sadness and gratitude within—as well as nostalgia for times past.

On other shelves, I found books on counselling, pastoral care, church leadership, women in ministry, worship and missions. Memories of those college years surfaced again, along with those spent fully involved in all areas touched on in these books. Some of these I am still passionate about, although in different ways and in different settings. I know that is okay, but those mixed emotions still surfaced.

In the middle of another shelf, I noticed my own six novels and one memoir, all published since 2007. I paused and was again overwhelmed at God’s abundant grace at work in my life in these writing and speaking years. But then my eyes ranged over the many other novels and memoir/biographies on my shelves—most of which have enjoyed much greater popularity and contain far more exciting stories than mine. I sighed, as envy and self-doubt began to flood in.

I decided to step back and ask God for a better perspective on it all. And soon I began to see the wonderful variety of reading experiences there, in the midst of which my own books truly did belong. I also saw books I currently enjoy—gems on contemplation and on experiencing God’s presence, some written by Christians centuries ago. I saw helpful books on writing and creativity. I saw new releases alongside older novels I have recently re-read and loved all over again. I saw so much richness in books both old and new on those shelves. And I gave thanks, realising they have all been part of the tapestry of my life, with no one section more important than the other.

Yes, my book culling task might still be daunting, but not depressing. God is there with me as I work and remember, whispering to me, giving me perspective, filling me with gratitude and grace.

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Psalm 25:15

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Jo 23There are down sides, I’ve discovered, to having a more reflective personality. For starters, I can wallow in introspection. I can sit for far too long, thinking about things I have done in the past and how differently I would do it all now. In short, I can be the queen of post mortems!

Depending on how tired I am when these take place, I can lose all sense of perspective and end up seeing only the negatives in whatever input I have given or writing I have done. I can even find myself overcome with feelings of embarrassment and self-pity at times. And if I do not come to my senses, these can all too easily paralyse me.

Yet there is an upside to these post mortems as well. With God’s help, I can learn from past mistakes and grow just that little bit more. I don’t want to keep committing the same old errors and be unable to communicate God’s love in the best possible way. So after I speak somewhere, I go through my input, reflecting on what worked and didn’t work, what felt laboured and what seemed to flow well. I make a mental note not to use this or that illustration again, if it seemed to puzzle or not connect with my audience. Then, when I have finished, I file that input away and try to let it fade from my mind.

This issue of post mortems is very pertinent right now as I seek to write my second non-fiction work—another memoir, with a few lines of teaching in each chapter, as well as some reflection questions. As I go to write about some of the more draining periods of my life, I find I have to safeguard my spirit and try to follow David’s example of focussing on God:

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Ps 25:15

Otherwise, I could spend hours staring at my computer screen, feeling the pressure of that past season of my life, and become exhausted all over again. Instead, I try to look back with more objectivity, relying on God to give me a better perspective on it all and show me what to pass onto others. That’s the mindset Paul seems to have had when he wrote the following:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

It’s not that Paul never mentions his past. Even in this same chapter, he remembers how he was once a Pharisee and a persecutor of the church. By God’s grace, however, he became a changed person—a new creation, free to love and serve Christ (2 Cor 5:17-19).

That’s what I am too, I remind myself with joy, as I square my shoulders and set to work on my book again. I may well have made that unwise decision or spoken those hurtful words in the past, but, as Jer 31:34 reminds us, God has chosen not to remember them—and so should I. I can let go of it all and move on, knowing I am forgiven and am totally loved and accepted because of Jesus.

And that is such a wonderful, healing thing to be able to do, don’t you think?

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Here we are at the brink of 2013, with a blank slate before us yet again. Some of us may feel we know already what our year will contain. For others, there may be all sorts of unknowns, options, possibilities, decisions ahead. But for all of us, there will no doubt be those challenges or hiccups along the way we didn’t foresee that may threaten to discourage or even derail us.

I love the Psalms. Even when I am reading another part of Scripture, I keep on returning to them. And as I did this yet again recently, I came upon Psalm 25:15:

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.

What is this snare King David talks about here, I wondered. What will such snares be for me in 2013? What traps lie ahead for you, do you think?

In one sense, such snares or traps are by definition unexpected—we don’t know where or what they are so we fall into them. But judging from past experience, for me one of the most obvious could be failing to give myself enough time, in the midst of everything else involved in a writer’s life, for actually writing. There is nothing like being truly creative, listening to what my characters want to say and do, letting my imagination take wings. This brings me such fulfilment. And in those times, God is also very close—even intrinsically involved in the whole process.

Another obvious trap for me could be forging ahead in my own strength and according to my own wisdom, rather than looking to God for such things. I should know by now not to load myself down with speaking engagements, for example, that may not be God’s idea, but instead may arise from my own fear that God is incapable of providing me with such opportunities. Of course I have to play my part in finding these, but there is a fine balance between trusting in God and trusting in myself.

Yet another possible trap for me could be comparing myself with other authors. Their books are so different from mine. Am I completely on the wrong track? They seem to be doing so well—everyone seems to be reading their books. Should I try to change my style? Should I stop writing altogether? Should I expend my energy in other, more fruitful directions?

But the trap that could present the most danger for me in 2013 is that of crowding God out in the midst of everything else. How could that happen? How could I possibly lose sight of my Lord, the one who gives life, who comforts, guides and sustains? Yet I have found, even in a busy ministry and speaking role, how easily this can happen. Our enemy doesn’t give up and is always busily setting those snares and hiding those traps.

So today, on the brink of a new year, I take note again of David’s words in Psalm 25:15. It is only God, I know, who is capable of helping me see those hidden traps and of releasing my feet when I do stumble into them. I want to walk through 2013 with my eyes on the Lord, who alone can show me the way ahead.

How about you? Are your eyes in the right place too as you step into the new year?

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