Near to the Heart

I wish the highs would last a little longer. The sun shines, the drummer drives the beat, the teaching comes together, the prayer is powerful. I want that feeling to stick around. Not that everything is perfect. Far from it. There is loss, and suffering. But a sense of being in the right place, at this time, with words for the moment. 

I rejoice and celebrate in your faithful love
    because you saw my suffering—
    you were intimately acquainted with my deep distress.
You didn’t hand me over to the enemy,
    but set my feet in wide-open spaces. 
Psalm 31:7-8(CEB)

But my feelings seem to change like Central Illinois weather. Frequently and unexpectedly. Things happen. Or in the night, a different perspective emerges. The shadow side of all that seemed good. The weight presses down. The impossibility of replicating past successes. 

Have mercy on me, Lord, because I’m depressed.
    My vision fails because of my grief,
    as do my spirit and my body.
 Ps. 31:9(CEB)

I could kick myself for not being more even-keeled. If my faith were stronger, or if I had true belief instead of mirage, wouldn’t my moods be more steady? Do I doubt God’s provision? Or my ability to listen? Or think that somehow when I go back for more, the well will have run dry?

The Psalms steady me. Not because they are all faith and  triumph. Nope. They reflect that well-traveled journey from elation to despair to anger to hopeful trust. Not always in that order. Often all in one Psalm. Because I am not alone in cycling through these highs and lows. 

But me? I trust you, Lord!
    I affirm, “You are my God.”
My future is in your hands.
    Don’t hand me over to my enemies,
    to all who are out to get me!
 Ps. 31:14-15(CEB)

Often the enemies are in my own head. Or perhaps in my own body. How do we learn to love ourselves with the gentle generosity of the gaze of Jesus? Neither self-flagellation nor self-aggrandizement. Neither self-sufficiency nor helplessness.

Bless the Lord,
    because he has wondrously revealed
    his faithful love to me
    when I was like a city under siege!
When I was panicked, I said,
    “I’m cut off from your eyes!”
But you heard my request for mercy
    when I cried out to you for help.
 Ps 31:21-22(CEB)

I am reminded that faithfulness is the Lord’s domain. And that God delights in revealing that love toward me. And that I am not the only one to panic. I don’t need to beat myself up for my anxiety. As if that would help.

All you who wait for the Lord,
be strong and let your heart take courage.
 Ps. 31: 24(CEB)

Sometimes we wait. Whether we want to or not. For strength and for courage. Sometimes there is a Psalm to steady us. Other times a hymn will bubble up from some long-forgotten place. A word from a friend. A glimpse of blooming beauty. Sun, when clouds were predicted. There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God. 

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
  Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us, who wait before Thee,
    Near to the heart of God.

May we find that place of rest today. May we be agents of that rest to each other, and to our world. 

Bulletin: 5/5 
Order of Service: 5/5
Sermon: Jesus is Still Speaking -John 21 & Acts 9
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