Thursday, August 2, 2012

My favorite Psalm

How lovely is your dwelling place, 
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, 
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out 
for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home
where she may have her young--
a place near your altar.
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with 
pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob,
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your annointed one.
Better is one day in your courts 
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the 
house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does He withhold 
from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
blessed are those who trust in you.

Psalm 84.
What this Psalm means to me:
Everything. In a way it's my blueprint for life.
Shall I explain? (Not that you have a say here, of course...)
Even while I live with feet by gravity to this earth, something in me--that which is already fully HIS--longs for His courts, His dwelling place, which will make even the most beautiful of Creation seem a reflection, a shadow, a mere copy. Like it has no substance or reality. 

In truth, there are times when everything in me cries out for that place. In the last few days, the pain to which I am accustomed has burgeoned into something beyond even my ability to handle, and I've been handling this  chronic pain for ten years. I try to stand and my left leg begins to crumple, making me worry that far too soon, simply walking without aid will be beyond my capability; it's been bad enough that I can't imagine another day of it, let alone ten more years. I turn then to the words of this Psalm: "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."  These are words of comfort--to know that it's not only my heart, but my very human body, that can long for Him. He made my body to want Him, for strength today, for healing as He sees fit, and CERTAINLY--always--forever.  This is because my true home--our true home--is His home. Near Him. We, who are made in His image, were created to dwell with Him. Though He gave us this world as a model of that place, it is the rehearsal for what He intends when we live in the mansions Christ promised to prepare for us.  Those mansions are His blessing to us. His amazing grace blessing of the resurrection that ensures us that we will be with Him in paradise. What a profound blessing that is.

To this end, because of this, OF COURSE I have set my heart on pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey for a spiritual purpose. There is no other purpose in life! How could there be? The world tells us repeatedly that life is not merely a destination but a journey but I believe it is both. We are on a journey toward a place. A journey toward Him. This is what makes it a pilgrimage. So if I had to choose a single sentence to sum up my life, it would be this verse, "Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." In making such a spiritual journey, my goal on this earth is to turn the dry, difficult and even sometimes weeping places--in this Psalm  referred to as Baka--into places of springs. Springs of Him, springs of "Living Water," as Jesus calls Himself.  Recreating the hard, painful, torrential rains of life into pools of His life-giving presence.  This takes me--and hopefully, as ministry, those my life touches--from "[His] strength to [His] strength."

Does God hear me? Does He listen to me? It's the cry of every heart bent on seeking Him and the substance of every prayer. Yes, my faith says. He promises and I believe.

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
I can't tell you how often I've said these words aloud or silently, partly because they're so patently true.  That longing permeates deep into my pores. One day, I often think.  Simply standing at the door--just the door--of His throne-room: that alone overwhelms a desire for anything on this planet.  But these words are also a reminder. They help me keep my life in perspective when I get caught up in my own interests, when my longings take on a more worldly hue.  "I want this," I begin to think. "Give us that," creeps into my prayers. "Just this, Lord." Then these words comes, almost unbidden. Like a song. No, as a song I learned a long time ago when Beve and I lived in India. "I would rather be a doorkeeper in your house than to dwell my whole life somewhere else." Yes, yes, yes.  

So yes (again!) He is a sun and shield. He both lights my life and protects it. He bestows favor in His way--sometimes in ways that seem obvious and sometimes less so. Pain can be favor, I think. I believe so. I have experienced it as such. "No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  No good thing. That's the crux. Puts Romans 8: 28 to shame in how cosmic it is, to tell you the truth. But there's a caveat. "To those whose walk is blameless." To those who have "set their hearts on pilgrimage."  There is none blameless on her own. We know that. But by His saving grace, I am blameless in His sight. So no good thing does He withhold from me.  This day. Every day. 

Therefore, I trust Him. Therefore, In Him I put my trust, and set my heart on pilgrimage.
And on this Psalm.
And look forward to the day when my longing, yearning, fainting heart will find its true home in the courts of the living God.  Even as a simple doorkeeper.

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