The Art of Journaling

Psalm 19:6

For years I’ve tried to keep up with a habit of writing in a journal. I’ve been successful with a journal in a hit-or-miss sort of way. I have a few journals stacked neatly on my desk and I have yet to finish one. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as each journal has a specific purpose. But possibly that is the problem. I have too many journals.

For example, one journal is to write thoughts from the day, or comment about a Bible passage, and sometimes I write prayers such as, “A prayer for more grace,” which I posted on this blog.  There is also the creative journal for the times when I am inspired to create … to sketch and paint. I jot a few notes about the sketch or watercolor painting just to keep the memory fresh. I want to remember what inspired me to draw or paint at that moment.  I also use Evernote to save a collection of quotes from authors and favorite bloggers.

In January of this year, I began a quest to read a Psalm or a portion of Psalm every day. To keep me on track and consistent with this daily reading plan, I turned to The Songs of Jesus ~ A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim and Kathy Keller.

Reading through the Psalms for 26 days has informed consistency of keeping a journal.  Actually, reading the Psalms has transformed the way I journal. The Psalms are not just a matchless primer of teaching but a medicine chest for the heart. [1] Psalms is a prayerbook that has every emotion known to man and gives us the freedom to pray those same words, with those same emotions, back to God.

Reading Psalms is teaching me how to pray. What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. [2] This is pure grace, that God tells us how we can speak to him and have fellowship with him. [3]

The Psalms fire our imaginations into new realms yet guide them to the God who actually exists. The Psalms have encouraged and inspired the way I make art. There is a reason and purpose to make something beautiful.

I may have discovered the art of journaling by reading through the Psalms. This journal is beginning to resemble a story … my story. I see my story, my life, woven into the words of the Psalmist. I find that amazing and truthfully, frightening. It is a journal of joy, sorrow, worship, repentance, hope, frustration … peace and assurance that God will keep me as the apple of [his] eye and hide me in the shadow of [his] wings. (Psalm 17:8)

What about you? Have you read through the Psalms or do you enjoy keeping a journal?

sunflower

[1] The Songs of Jesus by Tim and Kathy Keller; Introduction, {viii} | [2] | Ibid. page {ix} | [3]  Psalms:The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Laugh at the Days to Come

Psalm 27:13

I want to laugh at the days to come. My prayer for this month is for laughter to fill our hearts and to believe that God is good and his plans for us are good. It is tempting to associate the good life with something physical, yet when the physical breaks, it’s hard to see the good in that.

I pray to remain confident of God’s goodness, even if I don’t get the things I have my heart set on. I admit being guilty of having a wrong assumption that because God is good he will give me the things I want. By God’s grace, he is freeing me from a limited and small understanding of what is good so I can experience the huge and satisfying good that he has planned for us.

This is God’s goodness to us today … he filled our hearts with laughter. He replaced our tears with smiles and refreshed our countenance with joy. By faith and hope, I believe that we shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13) We will laugh at the days to come.

laugh at days to come

One of my greatest joys in this world is to sing with all my heart songs of our faith, of the Mighty Work and Victory of Jesus Christ for broken people. I especially like to do so in the face of all the suffering, pain, death, diagnoses, weakness, confusion, darkness and so, through faith, to lift up my heart to Him-who-is-my-Hope and laugh at the days to come. —Jason T. Dorsey, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

The Lord is my Joy by Nathan Partain

The Lord is my Joy, the Lord is my joy
When all that I have is lost, I find
The Lord is my Joy.

The Lord is my strength, the Lord is my strength,
When I am too weak to go on, I find
The Lord is my strength.

My all in all is he, My healing King
My Master tends to me, for him, my soul shall sing.

The Lord is my rock, the Lord is my rock,
When all I have faith in fails, I find
The Lord is my rock.

The Lord is my delight, the Lord is my delight,
Above all the joys of life, I find
The Lord is my delight.

My all in all is he, my breath, my song.
In him I have everything; to him, my soul belongs.

I wait, and wait upon you, To come for me in rescue.
Give strength, my heart is failing, yet still, my lips will praise you.

And with his wings he covers me, he keeps his watch when I’m asleep,
I offer all my thoughts and dreams, I give my savior everything.

You who gave your only son, I dare not doubt your steadfast love.
Come, I beg you take my life, if am yours then all is right.

My all in all is he, my dearest friend.
I put my trust in him; on him, my soul depends.

Psalm 46:11

We Are Kept: A Prayer for Easter Sunday

Easter

Dear God,

We are adopted by you into your forever grace and our lives are forever changed because you rescued us once and for all through your son, Jesus … yet you continue to rescue us again and again by making a way for us to escape and to break free from strongholds that want to devour and destroy the peace and joy that comes with being a child of the King.

How thankful I am that you are my heavenly father. How thankful I am to be named a child of God. You are so gracious and so very generous with lavishing your love upon your children. You love us unconditionally, inviting us to sit with you around your banquet table. We come filthy and wearing dirty clothes; and you wash the dirt from our feet and dress us in clean and pure garments of righteousness. You serve us bread that is broken by you and we eat of it until we are full and we drink of the living water you pour into our cup until it overflows.

I am reminded that our children are comforted by the unconditional love we give them. They are kept. We will never let go of them. How much more awesome it is to thank you, gracious God for never letting your children go … we are kept.

With a humble heart I praise and pray.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

“Because of your resurrection, we’re neither afraid to die, or to live; we’re not hapless vagabonds on earth, we’re hope-filled children of God. We’re no longer enslaved to our sins; we’re now wrapped in your righteousness.” ― Scotty Smith

“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”  ― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“Getting found almost always means being lost for a while … Easter says that love is more powerful than death, bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger even than airport security lines.” ― Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ― Mary Oliver

Easter post 2015

The Beauty of Grace

I am grieving over the sudden death of a good friend. I am deeply saddened for a family that no longer has a son. The evil of cancer attempts to break the most valiant warrior and the rampage of an incurable disease is relentless. My heart is heavy and burdened in prayer for precious friends.

God, please help them to wait patiently for you. Please incline your ear to hear their cry. Draw them up from the pit of destruction, out of the filthy swamp. Set their feet upon a rock, make their steps secure. Put a new song in their mouths, a song of praise to you, God. You are their help and their deliverer; do not delay, O my God. (Based on Psalm 40:1-3; 17)

In my downcast state of mind this morning, I recalled a song that I heard at Redeemer, an urban church in Indianapolis, where I worship and serve in children’s ministry. My friends ask, why did this happen … yet they may never learn the answer to that question on this side of heaven but what they are certain of is that they will experience the beauty of God’s grace in calamity … day by day, moment by moment, morning, noon, and evening. I know that his kindness is steadfast, He has anchored my soul in his peace.

Listen to the song here: For HIs Own Sake (live).mp3 written and performed by Nathan Partain, Director of Worship and Culture at Redeemer Indy.

What does it mean to love the almighty God when he allows calamity? What should we expect in this life? After spending much time in the word and prayer, after trying to teach these truths to myself and those around me, this song comes and it sums up one of the largest truths that has emerged during this season. That I do not love God for what he does for me. I love him for who he is alone. That is what it means to really love. He is worthy of my love, my strength, my devotion and honor. And it is not just that I am obliged to give my everything to him. I want to. In fact, there is nothing I want more than to give my all to my God. This song was recorded live in worship on Palm Sunday.  —Nathan Partain   http://partainwordsandmusic.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/for-his-own-sake/

For His Own Sake

I have seen the bright birth of the morning,
I have worked through the sweat of the day.
I have laughed as the summer rains poured down from heaven,
and I’ve harvested oceans of grain.

I have worked and I’ve worked and had nothing,
I have prayed and I’ve prayed but no rain,
I have lost to the fire, storm and locust,
And woke up to find all my land left in shame.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

I have made the mistake that my blessing,
Means the favor of God on my ways,
And thought every hardship, his anger against me,
And cried out in darkness for grace.

Now I know that his kindness is steadfast,
He has anchored my soul in his peace,
So that suffering is now just the pangs of my hunger,
to know the embrace of my King.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

I have learned that this world is not truest,
There’s a hope held securely beyond,
And since Jesus has suffered through my own destruction,
I entrust my all to my God.

I have seen deepest loss bring rejoicing,
Seen a mother with her stillborn sing praise,
I have seen those abused and those ravaged by sickness,
Through tears and in anguish give thanks.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.

—Nathan Partain

Sunday Respite | Show Them Jesus

sunday respite_2

”This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.” Isaiah 44:2-5

Dear Gracious and Loving Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this amazing scripture that gives us great hope for our future generation, our children’s children. I am thankful that you formed them in their mother’s womb and you promise to be their help. I pray that you would pour out your Spirit upon them and that your name would be written on their hand. With anticipation, I long for them to say with confident assurance, “I belong to the Lord.”

Please keep them thirsty for your love, for your truth, for your word. I pray that you would make the gospel of grace compelling and irresistible in their lives.

Help us, their parents and grandparents to be faithful to pray for our next generation to spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. This is a beautiful portrait of a life rescued by your grace. Please pour out your blessings on our descendants and help us to remain faithful to show them Jesus.

Amen.

sunday respite 1

When a Lonely Place Becomes the Best Place

the best place 2

I wish I could say that my heart has been consistently joyful and at peace when I’m faced with an unexpected interruption, however my first inclination is to worry, fret or to be annoyed by the inconvenience. How I respond to an upset in my plans reveals the condition of my heart.

My heart needs to be turned towards caring. My soul needs to be softened and molded to show God’s peace and joy.

Unexpected events are not simply interruptions of our daily work but the way God molds our heart to be more patient, more caring, more selfless. I need a holy intervention to move gracefully through interruptions, to see the beauty of community with friends, the importance of sharing life-on-life.

It’s there right in front of me … this holy intervention. I need to be quiet, to withdraw from breathless activities. To pray. This is when a lonely place becomes the best place.

I love this photo of my daughter sitting next to her daughter, talking quietly while comforting her daughter and meeting her needs. When I realize that people are the primary cause of interruptions my perspective towards being inconvenienced changes. My prayers shift from being self-focused to people-focused … a concern for others is motivated more by their needs than my own.

In the morning, long before dawn, [Jesus} got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. (Mark 1:35)

In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. ­[1]

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. (Isaiah 50:4)

A lonely place becomes the best place for God’s goodness and care to be displayed. It is in the lonely place that I find peace that God will answer prayer.

[Jesus and his disciples] went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-44)

Jesus is in a lonely place with his disciples and five thousand other people. It is in this best place where God overwhelmingly answers Jesus’ prayer through a young boy’s simple gesture of giving away his meal of five loves and two fish.

When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place. [2]

“I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen

Receiving more grace in the lonely place indeed becomes the best place.

the best place[1] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 18  |  [2] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 30.

Sunday Respite | Worship

Deuteronomy 10:17We have not loved our neighbor as you instructed us.
We have not spoken up for those who needed our help.
We have turned away from strangers.
We have not shared with others the gracious hospitality you share with us.

You asked for our hands,
that you might use them of your purpose.
We gave them for a moment,
then withdrew them, for the work was hard.

You asked for our mouths,
to speak out against injustice.
We gave you a whisper,
that we might not be accused.

You asked for our eyes,
to see the pain of poverty.
We closed them,
for we did not want to see.

You asked for our life,
that you might work through us.
We gave a small part,
that we might not get too involved.

Lord, forgive our calculated efforts to serve you
only when it is convenient for us to do so,
only in those places where it is safe to do so
and only with those who make it easy to do so.

 

The Worship Sourcebook, 2.2 Prayers of confession, 35 (p98)