Monthly Archives: July 2014

Listening and Responding

Psalm 88 describes someone with a deep faith who is used to going to God every day in prayer.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you. (vs. 9)

But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (vs. 13)

But there are times when life takes a turn for the worse, when the world becomes gloomy. When the soul becomes downcast and it seems that even God is against you.

O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide my face from me? (vs. 14)

Do you then cry out to God day and night like the Psalmist?

O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
incline Your ear to my cry!
~Psalm 88:1-2

Even though this Psalm is filled with despair, the psalmist reassures us that God is a listening God who does listen whenever you and I need to be heard most.  Moreover, God responds by inclining his ear toward our cries.

God is not only a listening God, but a responding God who acts.
~Robert McAfee Brown

Thanks be to God who listens and responds whenever we cry out.


I have a plaque with the outline sketch of a seashell and the words: THE BEACH, rekindle, relax and refresh. I bought it because it reminds me of the summer afternoons I spent on the beaches of Southern California. It wasn’t till I moved away that I realized how much those moments on the beach helped rekindle, relax and refresh my soul.

When I read Psalm 85, I notice three similar words: restore, revive and rejoice. Based on their previous experience of grace, God’s people cry out: Restore us again, O God of our salvation and our away your indignation toward us (vs. 4)! Furthermore, they ask for this gift of grace to revive them again that they might rejoice: Show us you steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation (vs. 6,7).

The Psalmist describes beautifully what happens when you and I choose to reorient every aspect of our lives toward the things of God. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other (vs. 10).  God’s righteousness and peace rekindle our hope and bring relaxation and refreshment to our souls.

We may not be able to spend long summer afternoons on the beach, but we can reorient our lives and ask God to bring restoration and revival to our souls. And we can rejoice by trusting in God’s covenant promises to us. Yes, the Lord will give what is good (vs.12a).

As I read through Psalm 85 prayerfully, I wonder if God is inviting me into new experiences of grace. Is there a habit, an attitude, a relationship in my life, in yours, that needs reorientation?  May God give us the courage to listen for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints (vs. 8).

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A Listening Relationship

Grace is often described as amazing and it is. But how else might you and I describe it? Have you ever stopped to consider what God’s grace sounds like, feels like or tastes like? I had not until this week when I spent time reflecting on Psalm 81.

Theologian Karl Barth once said, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.” I wonder if grace sounds like the joyous celebration described in the first verses of Psalm 81:

Sing aloud to God our strength;
shout for joy to the God of Jacob!
Raise a song; sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our feast day.

Would you agree that grace feels like a distressed person being heard and then relieved from the burden they have been carrying for a long time (vs. 6,7)?

I relieved your shoulder of the burden;
your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place of thunder;
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

Perhaps grace tastes sweet like the finest of wheat mixed with honey which is described in the last verse of Psalm 81.

But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

No doubt God’s grace fills our lives with laughter, relief and sweetness. But perhaps the most amazing thing about grace is that you and I are invited into a listening relationship with the Lord.  Twice in Psalm 81 we hear the desire of God’s heart (vs. 8, 13). Just as God hears the cries of our hearts so God longs for you and I to listen to His voice.

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

Oh, that my people would listen to me.

  Oh Lord, thank you for calling me into a listening relationship. May I have eyes to see, ears to hear and sensitivity to feel and even taste your truly amazing grace all the days of my life…Amen and amen.


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Your Redeemed History

They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
~Psalm 78:35

On the eve of 4th of July, it seem natural to reflect on our nation’s history. Psalm 78 is about Israel’s redeemed history, about God’s goodness but also about Israel’s ungratefulness. As I read these verses, I think about the Pilgrims who made that first voyage to our continent and the moments of ungratefulness they must have experienced. When the winds blew and the seas raged. When the food tasted stale and the children cried all night. When the dead bodies of loved ones were thrown overboard.

I wonder if the Pilgrims read this Psalm to be reminded of God’s glorious deeds, faithful provision and eternal covenant.  I wonder if when they landed they looked for a single rock to step ashore on because they remembered like the Israelites that God had been their rock and Most High redeemer throughout their ocean crossing.

Whatever journey you are on this holiday weekend, I invite you to reflect on God’s goodness and give thanks for your own redeemed history.