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Posts Tagged ‘the Psalms of David’

Jo 12During this coronavirus time, I have worked steadily on my next novel. I edited as I wrote and also edited the whole manuscript four or five times after completing it. Then I sent it off to my first manuscript reader/editor—and the next—and the next—and the next. Then I submitted it to my old publisher. And each time, there was more to edit—and more—and more. My manuscript was around 97,000 words initially, but is now around 87,000 words. And I’m still going. Is it any wonder that some nights I have gone to bed with words swimming before my eyes?

In this time too, I have written three short stories, critiqued two manuscripts and a portion of two more. And I have kept writing my blogs each week—and emailing friends and family who have felt a little isolated. I was glad I could do all this, but there comes a point where all this reading and writing can become a little tiring—especially the discouraging task of throwing thousands of words out that you have laboured long and hard to put in your manuscript in the first place!

So recently, we went away for a short break. And while driving along near the coast north of Sydney, to my surprise, I caught sight of some olive trees. Immediately, my mind went spinning back to my visits to Turkey in past years. During one trip, a friend and I travelled along the Mediterranean coast together, hopping on and off buses at various spots and taking in the mind-blowing sights and experiences of that region. Along the way, I saw many, many olive trees growing on the rocky hillsides and, to me, they were a beautiful sight, with their silvery foliage and often rounded, compact shape. I was amazed too at the way they could still flourish in such dry, barren terrain through the hottest of Turkish summers and produce those nutritious olives that are such an important part of the Mediterranean diet.

The same day I saw my olive trees here in our own country, I read the following verses in the Psalms:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. Psalm 52:8-9

When things coincide like that in my life, I have learnt to suspect God might want to say something to me, so I listen. And I realised I could relate to what David wrote in this psalm. I am indeed like that olive tree flourishing in God’s house. After all, God has enabled me to write all those thousands of words I have written in recent weeks—and God will sustain me as I complete the necessary editing and polishing. I don’t need to fret or complain or wonder if I will stay the distance. Instead, I know I can grow and flourish under God’s protective covering, watered and fed and cared for by our all-loving, all-powerful Creator God.

May you too be aware in this time of God’s unfailing love and nurturing hand on your life, as you grow and flourish like that olive tree.

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Jo 12I enjoy doing crossword puzzles and was recently given a crossword book that is just the right level for my slightly addled brain. This enables me to take a break from writing now and then, yet still play with all those fascinating words in the English language. What fun!

The other day, while tackling one of those mega crosswords that completely fill a large page, however, I found myself flummoxed. There seemed to be so many clues that could be taken different ways. For example, one clue simply said ‘hide’. So … did that mean the noun ‘hide’ or the verb ‘hide’? But if it meant the noun, ‘hide’ can have at least two different meanings. Or take the clue ‘sort’. Did that refer to the verb ‘sort’ or the noun meaning ‘type’? And what about that one little word ‘dear’? Did it mean the opposite to ‘cheap’? Or did it mean ‘sweetheart’ or ‘beloved’?

But most confusing of all was the clue that simply said ‘badgers’. Now I took that to mean those animals called badgers. ‘They must have another obscure name,’ I thought. ‘I’d never know that.’ So I left the spot blank until the end. Then, when I saw that the answer had to be ‘pesters’, it finally dawned on me that my ‘badgers’ clue meant the verb ‘harasses’ or ‘nags’, rather than any animal! There I was, trying to think of a scientific name for a badger when the clue meant something quite different.

As I thought about those crossword challenges, I began to wonder how often I myself confuse or mislead others with those words that roll off my tongue so readily each day—or spill out onto my computer screen. How glibly I can say one thing yet be thinking the exact opposite! How many times I seem to opt for those pious-sounding words and phrases that sound good but lack integrity and can leave others feeling puzzled or, even worse, discouraged!

There are some verses in Psalm 139 that have always challenged me about the words I speak—or write.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Psalm 139:1-4

Hmm. To me, it is a very comforting thought that God sees into the depths of my heart and knows me through and through. There is no pretending with God—and that is so freeing, don’t you think? But it also challenges me deeply that God knows every word I utter, before it even leaves my mouth. I cannot fool God with my words. I cannot get away with saying one thing and meaning another with God. And it does not please God whenever I try to fool others around me either.

So Lord, this day and forever, may all the words I speak and write honour you and be as honest and unambiguous as I can make them. And, as King David also prayed:

May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

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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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