Thoughts on Psalm 88

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88 A SONG. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO MAHALATH LEANNOTH. A MASKIL OF HEMAN THE EZRAHITE.

1  O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
2  Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

3  For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4  I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5  like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6  You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7  Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

8  You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9  my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you.
10  Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11  Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12  Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13  But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14  O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15  Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 
16  Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17  They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18  You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness (ESV).

This psalm is an individual lament. This psalm is also an anomaly in that it does not end in praise nor confession of confidence in the Lord. Verse 18 can also be translated darkness has become my only companion or darkness is my closest friend (NIV).

Robert Alter makes the observation that “the psalm deploys an unusual abundance of synonyms for the underworld” (The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, 2019, pp. 210-211) such as: Sheol (v. 3), the pit (vv. 4, 6), the grave (v. 5), the land of forgetfulness (v. 12).  

In Old Testament thought “the Lord does not involve himself with the dead…so the psalmist feels cut off from divine care” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 154). The Psalmist has been suffering pain and affliction, being close to death since his youth (v. 15). Even though the Psalmist is suffering and feels cut off from God, he still trusts the God of “[his] salvation” (v. 1).

It may be significant that the Psalmist states that he takes his prayers to the Lord in the morning, as this is when the Lord most often intervened on His people’s behalf (see Pss 30:5; 46:5; Isa 37:6). “The psalmist suggests that for him prayer is the first item on his daily schedule. Prayer is not his last resort but his first impulse” (Estes, p. 156).

The Psalmist is unapologetically raw, sincere and vulnerable in expressing how he feels about his circumstances and the Lord’s silence. However, the Psalmist “does not accept his pain with stoic apathy because, as VanGemeren notes, ‘True faith is not an apathetic acceptance of whatever comes to pass. True faith lies in wrestling with the Lord in prayer'” (Estes, p. 155). The Psalmist “just casts the problem into the hands of the Lord, in effect challenging him to rectify the situation by his faithfulness and righteousness” (Estes, pp. 157-158).

“Psalm 88 teaches that the life of faith at times includes experiences of raw pain and desperate loneliness, but even in the blackest of nights those who trust in the Lord can and should take their frustrations to the Father (cf. Ps 139:12)” (Estes, p. 159).

That quote is what strikes me the most about this psalm. The Psalmist does not complain to his family, friends or anyone else who is willing or in earshot to listen. The Psalmist takes his laments, rhetorical questions and grief directly to God; crying out to Him. The Psalmist still has faith in the Lord even though He is silent.

When I first started typing this my title was “The Darkest Psalm.” While this psalm is indeed dark and bleak, Psalm 88 reveals that it is all right to ask God why even when he does not choose to answer the questions that we bring before Him. Psalm 13 and Job “As both Psalm 13 and the book of Job manifest, the Lord’s silence does not mean his absence, and his silent presence is enough for those who trust in him” (Estes, p. 159).  

In this time of COVID-19 may we take our laments and personal grief before our Heavenly Father. May we trust Him when it comes to dealing with this new normal. Dear reader, please know that is okay to cry out to God, to ask Him questions. While your questions may be met with silence like this Psalmist, I pray that you will still trust Him. 

Father God, I ask for You to strengthen Your people. Help us process and reconcile things that we have never seen before. Thank You Father for those who have training in how to deal with infectious diseases and outbreaks. Thank You Father for those who are calm. Lord God, help us to discern truth from error in regards to the news that is being presented to us. Lord God, may we be reminded that You are NOT the Author of confusion and chaos. Lord God, make prayer our impulse and default mode rather than our last resort. May we take our grief to You and have You help us with our grief before broadcasting our fears, troubles and anxieties to an already dark and anxious world. Lord God, I ask for Your Hand of mercy to be upon all Your people with small children, new babies and babies in the womb as life has changed from what it once was. Thank You Jesus for allowing us to pray in Your Name. Amen. 

 

 

 

Notre Dame, One Year Later

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On April 15, 2019, six days before Easter, I remember watching Notre Dame in Paris, France burn. My mom was visiting and her and I were glued to the TV. Paris has ALWAYS had a very, very special place in my heart and life. April 10, 2020 with seven people present, Notre Dame held an online Good Friday service. (FYI I am strictly talking about the cathedral and am by NO means advocating for the Catholic church!)
Three days post Easter Sunday, I cannot help but reflect. Last year people lamented the burning of said structure and how there would be no Holy Week services. On April 10, 2020 with seven people present, Notre Dame held an online Good Friday service in hazmat suits. It does not matter how beautiful, big, small, old, new, etc. nor how much money one has or is raising for the church building, if there is no one there to worship.

Since the church is the people and not the building, when there are no people in the building, it ceases to be the church. It is the Good News authentically preached and applied that makes the church, the bride of Christ beautiful. COVID-19 does not discriminate it is affecting all of us; keeping us behind locked doors.

COVID-19 has stalled the rebuilding efforts of Notre Dame; however, our Triune God does NOT nor has He stopped, stalled or slumbered building His Body, individually and corporately. The temple is no longer a place, it is a literal physical body. Dear reader, your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, keep glorifying God with your body (1 Cor 6:19-20). While church buildings in the time of COVID-19 are closed, you dear reader, as a believer in Jesus Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit are indeed a living representation of life in Christ to those who are hurting. While the church building may be closed, the Church Body is ALWAYS open.

A life changed by Christ is more beautiful than any gothic architecture style or rose window. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” (Isa 52:7; Rom 10:15 NIV).

Jesus lifts up our branches that are not producing fruit and He waters, tends and nourishes them. In this time of uncertainty, doubt, frustration, cling to the One who heals and restores. Cling to our Triune God whose mercies are new each morning.

As the world is rapidly changing before our eyes, remember God is with you, in you and through you. God is still open for business and He is interested in using you! Please do not allow yourself (nor do I want to allow myself) to become a dead lifeless building.

Father God, it amazes me how much life has changed. Thank You Jesus that You are the same yesterday, today and forever! Lord God, may Your fire refine us in this time of COVID-19 to be a people who live and act more like You. May we be a Body who is in the world, not of it. Lord God, thank You that You are still in the people using business. Now more than ever Lord, Your people need to come together in prayer and worship. Lord, I am thankful for technology. I am thankful that in this time of COVID-19 that we are still able to communicate with each other even if it is not in person. With that said Lord, may we not get too comfortable with these platforms that when we are able to meet again that we would rather stay online. Lord God, thank You that You resurrect, heal and restore our physical bodies, relationships, mindsets. Thank You that You have chosen to indwell us. May we be reminded today that You, our Triune God are in us, above us, around us and want to work through us. Thank You, Jesus for the opportunity and ability to pray in Your Name because of Your sacrifice and work on the Cross. Amen and Amen.

 

Happy Easter!

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Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”

(John 20:18 ESV)

Father God, thank You for raising Your Son Jesus from the dead! Thank You, Jesus for giving us new life, reconciling us to the Father! Father God, thank You that for those who are believers in Jesus’s Name that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, thank You for pointing us to Jesus, for convicting, teaching and guiding us! Holy Trinity, may we meditate and savor this Easter with more awe, reverence, devotion, love, respect and wonder this year. Thank You Jesus that You are among the living and NOT the dead!

Lord God, thank You for this reader! Lord God, I ask that You manifest Your presence and power in his/her life in a way that they know that it is You! Lord God, may our lips be filled with praise for who You are and what You have done. The more we praise You and meditate on You, the less we think about ourselves and our situations and circumstances. Thank You Jesus for giving us new life!

Lord and Master Jesus, thank You for loving us. Thank You that we are able to see You in Your Word. Thank You for preserving Your Word. Thank You that no matter what this world does to us and future generations, it cannot kill nor destroy the Truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Jesus, I ask that You help us to respond to You and Your Work by loving others in a way that pleases and glorifies the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Holy Trinity, praise You for Easter. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Holy Saturday 2020

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I have always been sensitive that to the disciples and first followers of Jesus, the Saturday after Good Friday would have been to them, the darkest day in the history of the world (link for last year’s “Holy Saturday” post).

The Gospel writers do not give details about the disciples activity on the Sabbath. Köstenberger and Taylor state, “We can presume, however, based upon their actions Sunday evening-fearfully hiding together behind locked doors-that Saturday was spent in secretive fear and dread” (The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, 2014).

While Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen, they did not understand. The disciples truly thought all was lost. For me, when the whirlwind of events starts to settle and I begin to reflect on the situation, circumstances, thinking that all is lost, I am prone to fear (in all its various forms), anger, anxiety and situational depression.

The church is not the building, it is the people who are the church. Even if every church building and Bible in the land were burned or destroyed, it would not destroy the Good News of Jesus Christ. Regardless of what fears, anxieties, insecurities you may be experiencing, dear reader, please know Easter is coming. Hold on!

Father God, thank You that in the midst of our deepest and darkest fears You are there. Calm the storm inside of us as we wait for You. Lord God, thank You that the grave does NOT contain You. Thank You that no matter what happens in this life or on this planet that NOTHING will change the fact that Christ died to save sinners. Lord God, help us to not waste what You want to do in us and through us in this time of coronavirus. Jesus, help us to hold on, knowing that You are coming soon. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Good Friday 2020

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In light of the coronavirus, I have an even greater appreciation for how quickly life can change whether for Jesus’s first followers or for us. I have even greater empathy to the reactions of the disciples after Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial.

I cannot comprehend that even if I were the only sinner, Jesus would have died for me. I grieve that everyday, multiple times a day I spit in Jesus’s face, mock, flog, crucify Him by how I think, speak and act towards Him, others, things etc.

Even in the midst of my personal anguish of Jesus’s death for my sins, I know death does not win. The grave does not contain Jesus. Jesus is Resurrected, Ascended and Seated at the right hand of God the Father (Col 3:1).

Master Jesus, thank You for doing Your Father’s Will and allowing Yourself to suffer in our place. Thank You Jesus for the gift of salvation by grace through faith. May we never lose sight of what our salvation cost You and how worthy You think we are. Triune God, help us to ponder and reflect on the events of Good Friday in a manner that brings us closer to You. Thank You Jesus for all that You have done, are doing and will do. Amen.

 

I Am Sorry!

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Yesterday when I was talking to my mom on the phone the Holy Spirit convicted me.

I have been incredibly selfish and self-centered and I need to make a public apology to my mom and to all the people out there, especially those who are older, who are physically alone right now in this time of quarantine, social distancing and stay at home orders due to COVID-19.

  •  I am sorry for not apprecating human presence
  •  I am sorry for not appreciating human touch

To say to those who are alone right now, “Jesus is with you” sounds so trite and unencouraging to me. I hate and I mean hate when I hear people say to someone who is suffering or homeless that “Jesus loves you!” and just walks away.  What does this love of Jesus mean to someone who is suffering? What does it mean that you will always have a home with Jesus? What in this time of COVID-19 does it mean that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you when everything is a mess and is upside down?

Ultimately, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17 ESV).

My challenge to myself and all of us is to truly consider others in this time. For those who have children that are home and driving you crazy, consider those who do not have children and would love to have that problem. Whatever social/relationship situation we are in right now, may we consider those in the opposite.

I am thankful that God does not play favorites. I am thankful that God does not change.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1:3–4 NIV).

I am a hugger by nature, and right now, dear reader, I am giving you a VERY big hug. May we not allow this pandemic to alter us to the point where we will cease human contact and touch out of fear of the next virus.

Father God, I am sorry for once again losing focus and sight of You. I am sorry for the way that I have grumbled and complained. Lord God, thank You for the medical professionals and grocery store workers who are putting themselves at risk. Lord God, give political leaders all over the world wisdom and common sense when it comes to dealing with this pandemic. Lord God, thank You that You are God and that You are here whether we feel it or not. Lord God, speak to each one of us as to how we our faith can be manifested in action during this time of COVID-19. Lord God, prepare our hearts for Easter. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Welcome, April!

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Father God, keep us connected to You in this new month. Lord God, thank You for the brave men and women all over the world who are working to help others in the midst of the coronavirus. Lord God, in this time of quarantine and stay-at-home orders, may we not grow distant and isolated from You and from each other. Lord God, be present with the elderly all over the globe as many face this time alone. Lord God, in the United States, may we grow in our respect, appreciation and awareness of our elders.

Lord God, “April Showers Brings May Flowers” I ask for Your rain to cleanse and renew Your creation and us literally and figuratively this month. Lord God, may we cling to You and trust You in this new month. There’s a saying Lord, “You don’t know how much you need Jesus until Jesus is all you have.” These are desperate times Lord, make Yourself known to those who do not know You and strengthen those who belong to You. Lord, I am learning to depend on You now more than ever. Lord God, help us to pass this test that we are going through in our speech, thoughts and conduct.

Lord God, may we cling to faith and not fear, wow is that easier said than done. Lord God, I ask that Your people (myself included) practice common sense when it comes to social distancing. Lord God, help us be a people who will live for You and others and not just for ourselves. Lord God, may we be reminded that JOY means Jesus Others Yourself. Lord God, thank You for the gift of a new month. Lord God, only YOU know what this month has for us. Prepare us to face this month knowing that You are in control.

Prepare our hearts for Easter. Thank You that we have a Savior who has defeated all sickness, disease and death. Thank You Jesus that You are our Resurrected, Overcoming and soon returning King. Praise You God for this reader. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

Happy Birthday PQ Puppy!

Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

In light of the stay at home mandate I will not be able to celebrate my puppy’s first birthday, so I thought I would share the day with y’all!

Before June 17, 2019 I was NEVER responsible for keeping anything alive other than

Bringing PQ Home
Bringing PQ home June 17, 2019

Planty. God has taught me SO much about myself through the PQ puppy. I have learned more lessons than I could ever have imagined! Some good and some ugly. Thankfully, Nathan grew up with dogs so this is no issue for him. Having a puppy also calms Nathan in a way in which I never imagined! For me, honestly, there are moments where I just do not know what to do!

 

I have SO much more appreciation for parents and for people with animals. I also have FAR more appreciation how patient our Triune God is with us. There are times when PQ bites his leash or when he takes fifteen minutes to do his business. There are times where I say aloud, “Come on PQ! Get on with it! Let’s go!” And he just keeps hopping and circling away.

I cannot help but laugh at how often PQ would like to eat or do things that could harm him. PQ has yet to meet a leaf, stick or blade of grass that he does not like! I know there are times where I go after things that the Lord says are bad for me. In many ways that I have the same mannerisms before Holy God as PQ; however, in his case he is not a new creation. We as believers are.

By now you may be wondering what does “PQ” mean? Legally, our puppy’s name is PQ (pronounced “Pee Cue”). We have a running joke that Nathan’s the NKQ and I am the ALSQ. I said if we ever got a pug we could name him “PQ” for “Pug Quinn!” Well, long story short we did not get a pug, we have an adorable Cavapoo (aka Tiva puppy) and now PQ means “Puppy Quinn.”  When I told my mom we got a puppy and his name was PQ she said, “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard!” My mother-in-law agreed!

Thank you for allowing me to share this moment with you!

Father God, thank You Lord for the lessons that You teach Your people through creation. Thank You Lord that You are patient and do not give up on Your people. Lord God, thank You for this online community. Lord, how sweet it will be when Your people will be able to gather together in person again. Lord God, thank You for PQ. Thank You for the way that You have used him to humble me. Thank You for caring about all Your Creation. Lord help us to love and care for all that You have entrusted to us well. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

PQ in LeavesMessy PQMe and PQPQ and I selfie

What a Difference a Week Makes!

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Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13–17 ESV).

These verses have a WHOLE new meaning to me in light of the coronavirus pandemic. I am still wrapping my mind around what is occurring. As I said in my previous post, if someone would have told me last year or even at the end of 2019, that life would change so drastically and suddenly, I would have thought they were crazy.

On Sunday March 15, 2020 when Nathan and I were out walking in the woods, Nathan asked me if I wanted to try making fire with his ferro rod and file. I said, “Ok” and after a few tries, my little pile of grass seeds lit on fire. AMAZING!

When we got home that evening, I ordered my own ferro rod and file. Nathan gave me a small knife and now when I am out walking around by myself, I actually look for things that I think could be used to start a fire. So far my findings have not produced any results, but hey, at least I am trying!

Fishing
Mandy Sweigart-Quinn fishing on the Susquehanna River, March 20, 2020, Pequea, PA.

What is even more amazing, stunning, unbelievable is that on March 19, 2020, I got my fishing license. I spent the last three days fishing with Nathan (March 20, 21, 22). This truly is an act of God. For those of you who do not know me or are new to this blog, while I am a sports girl, I am NOT a wilderness girl. While I am practical and like to be outdoors, I do not need to be at one with nature. Nathan has nicknamed me “Shiny” for a reason! I am not afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to admit this! (In regards to Nathan and I please read “Junk”.)

Dr. Teague in his Commencement Speech (May 10, 2019) encouraged us to “Make Your Mist Matter” (James 4:14). I have so much more of an appreciation for wanting my mist to matter to God and His people. Precious reader, you and your mist matter to God, to current believers and to future generations, be encouraged by this!

As everyone knows who reads this blog, I have lamented not having a house. I repent before God and you, dear reader! Praise God and I mean PRAISE God for His Sovereignty in allowing us to rent in this time. Only God knows what is going to happen and I am going to follow James’s advice and “boast only in the Lord.” I am not going to boast about nor lament tangible things. If God is stirring in me, preparing me to  learn how to make fire and fish, I know that God is doing something in you! All those times that I said, “I will never fish” are coming back to bite me (pun intended!).

I know for a fact that these are things that I would NEVER do if it were not for the coronavirus. What ways can you make your mist matter in this time? How is God wanting to show Himself to you through this pandemic that He may otherwise not have been able?

Father God, thank You that You are near in this time of uncertainty. Lord, help us to make our mist matter. Lord, we ask that You give us guidance and wisdom. Lord, may we grow in our trust and dependence on You. Lord God, for many of us, we have been removed from our comfort zones. You are exposing our deepest fears and longings. Lord God, prepare us for what You will have us face with boldness and courage. Lord God, thank You for Your unfailing love. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Welcome, Spring 2020!

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If someone would have told me on the first day of Spring 2019, that on the first day of Spring 2020, we would be experiencing a global health pandemic that is shutting down houses of worship, schools and sports seasons, travel, businesses, restaurants etc. I would have scrunched eyebrows thinking there was something wrong with this person!

With that said, I still love Spring! I am coming to a greater understanding that the only thing that matters in life is that unbelievers hear about Jesus and that believers are being discipled/mentored. This is why I love Ecclesiastes so much. Everything is vanity/meaningless without God. I love Spring and its glorious, colorful, fragrant rebirth of vegetation. All of Creation points to the Creator Triune God. I love and am very excited that Spring brings longer and warmer days; however, without God the days are just days. Seasons are just seasons. Everything is monotonous with nothing new under the sun.

I find it fascinating that youth who have no issue staying indoors playing video/computer/electronic games for hours on end can be seen outside playing and roaming the sidewalks. All of us are wired to rebel against anyone who advises not to do something (even if it is for the benefit of ourselves and society at large). May we grow in wisdom this Spring (or Fall for our Southern hemisphere brothers and sisters!) and allow God to grow us and mature us in this season. As life brings death and death brings life, we know that none of this is meaningless for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Father God, help us to be Christ to those in our midst today, whether it is in person, talking on the phone or through text and email. Lord God, thank You that You are in our midst. Thank You Lord that we are not a people without hope. Lord God, may this trial refine our faith, molding us and shaping us to be more like You. Thank You God for this reader. May this reader come to know You and Your Word more in this new season of life. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.