I've been so thankful for so much time to be quiet this week and spending time being my “quiet, contemplative self.” For the last several years, I've fought a sense of guilt about retiring early and my desires to stay at home and follow my heart to write the thoughts that crowd my brain each day. On days like this one, I find such solace and peace in who I am becoming. Once a part of the rat race and the anxiety of checking the coffee pot, my hair curlers and the status of my car windshield before heading out for a day, the serenity just feels right for me. I am finding myself less comfortable with crowds, lights and all that seems to thrill the world of today. I know I am to live in the tension between the two and bridge the gap by taking the strength I get from my quiet times into the world. But first I believe I must accept the “me” that loves this quiet place and remove myself from the guilt of being who God has called me to be in this part of my life.
This morning I received an email of Psalm 34 which begins with the words,
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.”
This Psalm of David's deliverance from his fears, his shame and all his troubles began to speak to my heart as I went for another cup of coffee. As I stood pouring the last of the coffee into my cup, I heard this old praise song in my mind. I say “old” because it is one that I learned upon first coming into a Pentecostal church in the early 80's. To that point in my life, I was only acquainted with hymns.
“Your loving kindness is better than life,
Your loving kindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise Thee, thus will I bless Thee,
I will lift up my hands to Thy Name.”
As I thought about this Psalm and thanked God for his protection over my son and grandson in a wreck two days ago, I was reminded of God's faithful love to me as a mother and grandmother. In the quietness of my surroundings, no CD or Sirius or Internet radio, God had reminded me of His presence in my life since the day I went as a single mother to a new church with many needs and concerns. The memories of my children lifting their hands in praise for the first time were followed by memories of my first grandson's chubby arms lifted up in the balcony of this same sanctuary.
The songs have changed and I worship in a different sanctuary now, separate from my children and grandchildren. But no worries, because God continues to speak in the quietness to remind me of His faithfulness in so many ways. Because of this faithfulness, I trust He also speaks to my children and grandchildren in ways they can uniquely hear His voice.
In my own personal life, He speaks most frequently through scripture, music and nature. It's been the quiet days that have made that evident to me. I'm beginning to hear the “life songs” he sings to me and hear the “life verses” more clearly each passing year.
I absolutely love the music on Christian radio. Contemporary remakes of old hymns at my church do not offend me but I'm still moved deeply in my heart by hymns played on the organ at my home church when I was a girl. Sometimes when I'm praying, the tune will just come to me and I find myself singing the words of a familiar hymn. I'm learning there are certain hymns that return in certain seasons of my life. One of my favorites is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Once when I was a teen, I sang this with other young women in my Baptist church for radio. My daddy told everyone to listen to the show that day. To our surprise, the recording was faulty and we sounded like a men's group. After we recovered from the surprise, it became something we laughed about. How it came to be the most cherished hymn of my lifetime comes from something disappointing as do other songs I hold dear.
It is the same with Life Verses. I could never have imagined that Isaiah 30:18 would repeatedly come to my mind when adversity showed up in my life.
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him!”
And in prayer this Word and covenant promise has become a part of the fiber of my being.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever! Amen!”
I could add others to my list of scriptures, hymns and songs of praise that continually come up in my heart during these times of quiet with Him. As I thought of the reason I wanted to share these thoughts today, I realized it is because I know there are those who haven't had the liberty to spend quiet mornings with no distractions. Mine are not always so.
There always is that challenge of making a choice. The choice to stand by the window and really watch the bird feeding her newborn baby or the cat waiting quietly then pouncing on its treasured find in the edge of the wood. Every morning and evening the sky puts on a show that declares the beauty of the Creator but we can often find ourselves grumbling over the stresses of the day and forget to just look up and see His handiwork.
One of my life songs has become an old hymn from my Baptist church hymnal, titled Be Thou My Vision. Sometimes I sing them as a prayer and I think God must love my attempt at musicality.
“Be thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art,
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
He simply is our best thought day or night, but we even need His help to see our need for Him.
We are all so uniquely created to respond to Him in our own special ways. It only makes sense that He would give us each our own “life songs” and “life verses” and how beautiful is it that He knows what touches our individual hearts.
Today He has touched me with Psalm 34 as I was reminded to extol Him and give Him praise. The words of verse 3 say, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.” I'd love to hear some of your “life songs” and “life verses.” I have an idea that is how we are being made into His image. One beautiful promise, lyric, awareness of His creation at a time, we are becoming uniquely who He created us to be.
Today, let's let our “life songs” sing to Him in praise and adoration for who He is and how we are becoming more like Him.