Tag: emotions

What worship leaders can learn from Asaph

Psalm 81If you were charged to write songs about God, what would they say?

 

Would the words wax poetically about His creative power? Would the melody rise as an anthem to His mighty works? Would it be a tune that put quotable phrases and feel-good imagery on repeat in the brains of its listeners?

 

Many tend to think of the Psalms as that kind of music. We say things like, “I just feel so good when I read them.” We take one verse from one poem at one moment and expand it to describe the whole book.

 

We fail to listen to the music the Psalms are singing to us.

 

Asaph was charged to write songs about God. He was given that duty by David in 1 Chronicles 16. Many Psalms are attributed to him, which means those feel-good quotes of the Psalms are often lines from his works.

 

The problem is, when we quote Asaph’s Psalms one verse at a time, we hear the tune of his chorus, without hearing the layers of his composition.

 

Psalm 81 begins,

 

“Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!” -Psalm 81:1

 

A classic start to a Psalm if there ever was one. This could easily hang as a plaque on the wall of a church, beating the obligation of joy over the head of each passersby.

 

Yet, Asaph hasn’t always written words like these. He has experienced the breadth of emotions this life of faith puts before us and written about them all.

 

O God, why have you rejected us forever?
    Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? –Psalm 74:1

We praise you, God,
    we praise you, for your Name is near;
    people tell of your wonderful deeds. –Psalm 75:1

God is renowned in Judah;
    in Israel his name is great. –Psalm 76:1

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me. –Psalm 77:1

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
    How long will your jealousy burn like fire? –Psalm 79:5

Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved. –Psalm 80:3

 

So, when Asaph shouts for joy in Psalm 81, I am ready to listen. I know that shouting is not his only volume and joy is not his only theme. He has cried out in agony, and whispered the fear of being abandoned. He has talked of his hope and pleaded for restoration.

 

Asaph has earned the right to call us to joy. He has not glossed over life with fake platitudes. Nor has he missed noticing the way God is at work in the midst of it all.

 

His poems to the Lord are reflective of the depth of human experience and the fullness of God’s goodness all at once. His music invites us to a concert with a richness that extends beyond one quotable lyric.

 

If I were charged to write music to the Lord, I hope I would learn from Asaph.

 


That was my reflection on Psalm 81. Please link up with your own reflection below. Then come back next week to reflect on Psalm 82. (Email & RSS readers, click over to my website to add your link or read the links of others.)


On Lent, Vacation, and Humility

 

airplane wingLent arrived the day I left on vacation.

 

I boarded a plane headed south to warmer temperatures, and noticed a stewardess with ashes still on her forehead from an earlier service. As she wore her dark forehead, we displayed the light-hearted smiles of a family taking a trip.

 

It was an unavoidable collision of dates, really. Ash Wednesday hit right before days off from school for teacher conferences and President’s Day. Like most parents of school-age children, we wanted to travel during a time when minimal classes would be missed.

 

But the result of this collision was a frustrating contrast for this contemplative faith blogger. While others were thinking about what Christ gave up, and what they would forgo in remembrance, I was pondering what my family would consume and do as we enjoyed our extended time together.

 

This contrast brought a word to my mind. A word that might not be the first to pop into your head, but that burst forth in mine with a new understanding.

 

Humility.

Jesus Said Lent Series Button

As I have done with other periods of the church calendar, I will do a series on this blog to honor this Lenten season. Once a week, I will post about various teachings of Christ with the series, “Jesus Said… A Series for Lent.”

 

So, here is something Jesus said about humility:

 

Anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. – Matthew 18:4

 

There is one particular way I see my children living out humility: they experience life as it is, in real time. They know they are not in control of all that happens to them. And though this can lead to fist-pounding hair-pulling temper tantrums, it can also lead to a deeper experience of their days. Not their days as they should be, but their days as they are.

 

Children stop to cry when they skin their knees and they pause to wonder when they see the petals of a flower. They are loud and quiet, somber and joyful as they respond to what is happening around them. They experiment and learn and fail and grow.

 

Children feel their way through each day. Because that is all they can do. They can neither control their emotions nor determine their calendar. Children are forced into the humility of experiencing life as it comes to them.

 

As adults, we get so consumed with our expectations of what should be, or goals of what could be, or nostalgia about what was, that we don’t respond to what is. We worry and regret and strive and control and work until we have exhausted ourselves in pursuit of something we do not have.

 

Jesus wants to release us from all that.

 

Jesus told his disciples to have the humility of a child when they asked who would be greatest in his kingdom. This response is freedom. In God’s kingdom, you don’t have to struggle to achieve something or strive to control an outcome. You can receive Jesus’ grace, bask in Jesus’ love, and experience life as it comes to you each day. That is a gift that requires humility and trust to open.

 

And so, as I think about my last week, how I began the season of somber reflection by flying off on holiday, I trust that it is okay. I could not control my circumstances to what they should have been. I could only experience them for what they were. They were wonderful, and I don’t have to apologize for that.

 

My faith is not about performance, or living up to some external expectation of how I should feel or what I should do. My faith is about my love for and trust in a Savior who gives me grace for each day.

 

Perhaps vacation was an appropriate beginning to the Lenten season after all.

Fear and Vulnerability in the Waiting Times

What makes you feel vulnerable?

Maybe it’s showing emotion, particularly sadness or tears. Or perhaps it’s going to a conference and trying to network with people in your field. It could be displaying your art for others to see.

Whatever causes it, vulnerability is that feeling of our hearts lying exposed on a table.

It’s uncomfortable.

I’ve had a lot of that feeling lately. Because I’ve been doing a lot of waiting.

Vulnerability comes on strong in the waiting times of life.

Sending a nerve-wracking email and waiting for a response. Getting together with possible friends and waiting to see if they become deep relationships. Applying for a new job and waiting to see if I get it. Asking questions and waiting for answers.

The longer I wait, the more my heart tries to leap off the table and jump back inside. It just feels so… unprotected. Risky. Helpless.

Naked.

The waiting time turns to a wondering time. Questions circle around and around in my thoughts. Doubts about my identity and worth. How was I perceived? Am I liked? Am I valuable? Do I have a place?

With each question, my hands creep closer to my heart. Wanting to pick it up. Wanting to guard it from being this defenseless again.

That’s what I used to do. I used to keep it locked up in a suitcase. Protected, but stifled.

No. That is no way to live.

Waiting is a necessary part of putting ourselves out there. The only way to avoid the waiting would be to avoid taking the risks. And then, what would happen to our relationships? Our dreams? Our future?

Waiting is difficult, but it is worth it.

I know that is true. I know it. But still, in the midst of the waiting and wondering, I feel shaken and fearful.

The Lord is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? – Psalm 27:1

At first, when I read this, I feel frustrated. I berate myself for my lack of faith.

But then I realize how my fear points me to God. And I read the verse again.

Because many days, many many days, I don’t live like God is my stronghold. I live like I am my stronghold. Fully in control. Resolute and tough. Determined in my movements towards my goals.

I live many days as if I don’t need God at all.

But in these days? These days of waiting and wondering and fearing? In these days I have a deep reminder that I cannot actually live this life in my own strength.

I am grateful for the reminder.

And as I reflect on the state of my emotions, it points me towards what I am really waiting for. I am not waiting for answers. I am waiting for God. I am waiting for His transformation of my heart. His redirection of my confidence. His calming of my soul.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:13-14

As I type this, I am still scared. I am still uncomfortable with this vulnerability. But I am confident in God’s goodness.

And that gives me the strength to leave my heart on the table a little longer.

What makes you feel vulnerable? Do you try to protect yourself from that feeling?

learning to let go of my emotional suitcase

I sat on the plaid couch next to my fiancé. Across from us sat our pastor and his wife. It was pre-marital counseling, almost twelve years ago. It was the moment I received some of the best advice ever given to me.

It was the middle of the session spent talking about our childhoods. I had just finished telling stories of my past. Stories filled with facts, but empty of feeling.

After I finished, the pastor’s wife locked eyes with me. I saw wisdom, strength, and grace in her. She saw the lie in me. And she wasn’t afraid to say it.

“You keep your emotions in a suitcase. You carry them tight to you. You decide when to open them and when to keep them shut. You need to stop doing that.”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

So excited to have this as a guest post on Good Women Project today. Head there to read the rest….

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