Identity

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Today, September 17, 2020 is my 39th birthday. I LOVE my birthday! The reason why I love my birthday is NOT to receive gifts or attention, but rather to take time to reflect and celebrate with others what God has done in our lives. I have always loved having people gather on my birthday NOT to celebrate me but as to thank and celebrate all those who love, encourage and care for me. Folks, I have made SO many mistakes in my life. Each year that God gives me is an opportunity to practice worshiping, loving and serving Him on earth before I am called home to worship, love and serve Him for eternity.

This year I am reminded now, more than ever that my identity is in Christ. As believers our identity is rooted in Galatians 2:20-21 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (ESV).

I want to encourage you my dear brothers and sisters that no matter where you are living, no matter your familial role or material status, no matter your political affiliation, your race, sex, gender, ethnicity, occupation you are a Christian before anything else. What I mean by this is that I am a Christian woman, Christian daughter, Christian wife, Christian blogger, Christian American, Christian Caucasian. Christian is the word that defines me, it is unchangeable.

If you live in a country where you are allowed to vote, as a Christian it is your civic duty to do so. It is not Christlike to put your political views before your identity in Christ nor is it Christlike to ruin Christian relationships because someone has differing views.

I have no idea what your identity looks like but I pray that you will take time to reflect that whether you are Christian Filipino, Christian Black, Christian male, Christian single that Christian is what comes first. May we be known for our love and not our divisions and infighting. As a people who have been “crucified with Christ” it is paramount that both our identity and unity be wrapped up in the One who gave His life for us.

For those who are longing for a new identity, or longing to be a part of something bigger than what this world has to offer, I pray that the Holy Spirit will turn your heart and mind toward Him.

Father God, thank You for sending Jesus. Thank You Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, thank You for drawing us to Yourself and pointing us to Jesus. Jesus thank You that we may pray in Your Name knowing that our prayers and petitions are heard by our Heavenly Father. Teach us Lord to put You before any earthly title. Teach us how to manage the tension that our differences cause. Teach us to be Kingdom focused while also being god honoring citizens on earth. Thank You Father for this reader! Thank You for their love, care and encouragement. Lord God, may this reader know that Jesus loves them and so do I! Amen.

September 2020 Prayer

30 August 2020 Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve, Conestoga, PA; photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn

Lord God, I pray for the kids all over the world who are starting school; whether in person, online or hybrid. Lord God, give the parents of the students grace and mercy when it comes to the teachers learning how to teach at this time. Lord God, may teachers give themselves grace and mercy as well. Lord may parents and teachers NOT take their frustrations out on their children/students. Lord God, thank You for the advancements in technology that make distance learning possible, even when things do not work the way we would like. Lord God, I ask that You help the students focus and concentrate whether learning online or in person wearing a mask. Lord God, my heart breaks for the world that these young people are entering today.

Father God, I ask that You comfort Your people all over the world who are hurting. Lord God, I ask that You will come near the brokenhearted and fill them with the peace of Your Presence. Lord God, this life is NOT easy. The world that we knew last year at this time seems so far away. Lord, may we long for You more than we long for the past. May we fix our eyes on You and not look too far back, forward or sideways. Thank You Jesus that You are the Author and Perfecter of our faith!

Lord God, it does not take a genius to see that the United States is falling. Lord God, I ask that You will strengthen Your people all over the world. As the United States goes, so do many other countries. Lord God, when it comes to identity may we come to depend on You more and more and not depend on the world and its political systems. Lord God, may we live as good citizens in this world until You call us home.

Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit transform Your people into Your image and remind Your people that ALL people are created in Your image. Lord God, help us to live holy and blameless lives. Thank You for this reader. May You stir in them a desire to grow closer to You in this new month. Thank You for the gift of time You have given this reader and myself. May we make the most of the time You have given us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

We’re Here and It’s Getting There

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Praise the Lord progress has been made since I wrote “Under Construction”. After working on cars all day, covered in grease and sweat, Nathan would drive out to the house and spend hours beating tile for very little reward. Beating/ripping up/removing tile is the most difficult work I have ever done in my life and an experience I will NOT repeat!!!!

While the house was out of commission, Nathan and I stayed with my dad. I have to give my dad a public, “thank you!” for allowing us to stay with him for six weeks! When I gave the leasing office notice that we would be moving out, I never dreamed that we would end up staying with my dad! While I LOVE my dad, I have not lived with my dad for over 30 years (my folks separated when I was six, divorced when I was twelve and I will be thirty nine next month just to give y’all some context!).

As many of you know, my mom lives in Florida. On June 29, 2020 my mom arrived in Pennsylvania. So now my mom, Nathan and I are staying at my dad’s house, talk about strange!! (This is where I have to thank God that my parents are able to get along. I did not appreciate this when I was younger.) At this point Nathan and I have been with my dad for a month and all of us are ready for our departure.

On July 11, 2020 Nathan, mom and I were finally able to move in! While many projects have been completed, there are still more projects and deliveries scheduled for the Fall. There is one project that needs to be scheduled for next Spring. In all honesty, authenticity and transparency, this is the project that eats at me because I want it done now or at least in this calendar year.  How sad/selfish/entitled on my part! No wonder the Lord said to Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds'” (Jer 17:9-10 ESV).

God has made a way for me with this house in ways that I cannot even begin to describe. The fact that I have any agitation about waiting for a patio is horrific! My attitude reminds me of a quote by John Hartley, “Greed prevents a person from enjoying what he has, for it drives one to spend all one’s energy on getting more” (Leviticus, 1992, p. 445). Greed causes discontentment and dissatisfaction. Left uncheck greed can cause one’s heart and mind to become desperately sick.

I want my eyes focused on our Triune God, the Gift Giver and not the gifts He gives. In all honesty, the gifts are meaningless without the Giver! How quickly I can forget this. Praise God for His conviction and for giving us the ability to self-reflect!

Lord God, forgive us for the times that our focus is not where it should be! Lord, forgive me, forgive us for all the times that we do not give You the thanks and praise You deserve. Thank You Lord God for all the things that You have done for us over these past few months. Lord God, now more than ever may we seek to align our hearts with Yours. Father God, thank You for this reader. Thank You for allowing this reader to journey with me and for not giving up on me when I mess up! Lord God, I do not know what greed, discontentment or a disquieted spirit looks like for this reader; however, I ask that they will humbly and sincerely allow You to prune any area that is hindering their walk with You. Lord God, confession is good for the soul! Thank You Lord for all the object lessons that You have given me with this house that correlates to the life of faith. Lord, reveal to us our hidden sins.  May we never take Your forgiveness, mercy and grace for granted. Lead us and teach us. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

June 2020 Prayer

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For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.           (Rom 8:26b-27 ESV)

Thank You Holy Spirit for interceding on our behalf both individually and corporately. Lord God, there is so much anger and unrest, both justified and unjustified. Lord God for those of us in the United States, lead us to respond to what is happening in a manner that does not bring shame to Jesus’s Name.

Lord God, fill Your people everywhere with courage, faith, hope and love. Lord God, there is NO room for racism both on this earth and in the Kingdom that is coming. Lord God, Jesus said that He “did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt 10:34); however, Jesus also called and commanded us to love You and love others (Matt 22:36-40). Father God, help us to reconcile that You have not come to bring peace, and that even when times are chaotic, stressful, hostile and angry we are still called “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep o[urselves] unstained from the world” (Jas 1.27).

Lord God, may we never waiver in our pursuit for justice. May we never tire of seeking and living Your Truth. Lord God, may we grow closer to You this month. Lord God, I do not even know what to say or how to pray other than to say, “thank You that You are in control!” Lord God, help Your saints everywhere to hold on, to persist and to endure. Lord God, may we be aware of what is going on in the world, but may we not become fearful, scared and/or numb.

Lord God, protect and provide for my brothers and sisters who are being afflicted with locusts. Lord God, prepare and protect my brothers and sisters who are in the midst of or entering the rainy, hurricane, monsoon, typhoon season. Lord, for those who are in the midst or entering the dry season, may You be in their midst as well. Lord God, thank You that You are our Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who Provides.

Father God, for those who are believers in Jesus Christ, may we never forget that peace is a Person and His Name is Jesus. Lord for the reader who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, may today be the day of salvation. Holy Spirit, continue stirring hearts all over this world to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior while there is still time. Thank You Jesus, for the ability and opportunity to pray in Your Name. Please watch over this precious reader today and in this new month. Lord God, only You know the beginning and end of each day, month and year. We love You, we are trusting You and it is in Jesus’s Name we pray. Amen.

 

Hi, May!

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Father God, thank You for this new month! Lord God, thank You that You are in control. Lord God, thank You that You know our needs even more than we do. Lord, I ask that You strengthen this reader. Lord God, I ask that You meet the physical, financial, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of this reader. Lord God, thank You that You provide for us even when we do not see or feel it. Lord God, help us to become more like Jesus.

Father God, I ask that You give all nations and governments wisdom when it comes to how they handle COVID-19. Lord God, be with all people who are working day and night to serve and help others in this time. Lord God, may all people everywhere, exercise wisdom and common sense when it comes to being out in public. Lord God, helps us to be agents of peace and patience. Lord God, help us to draw closer to You. Teach us to discern Your Truth from all the lies and fear that are bombarding us.

Lord God, I specifically pray for East Africa. Lord God, be merciful on our East African brothers and sisters as they deal with the coronavirus and locusts. Lord God, impress on Your people, for those who have abundance, to consider the plight of those all over the world, even and perhaps in their own backyard who are suffering.

Lord God, teach us to value the things that You value. Teach us to love how You love. In all things may we seek to bring You glory. Thank You Jesus for the ability to pray in Your Name. Holy Spirit, lead us and guide us this day and in this new month. Triune God, thank You for who You are and for all the ways that You are working. Amen.

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. 

 

 

 

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.