Reflections On Psalm 1

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I can remember when I valued exercise as a very vital, necessary part of my daily life. Back in the 1980’s there was this exercise show on TV called, “The Twenty Minute Workout.” I stumbled upon it one morning after I fed my toddler son breakfast and he was happily playing with his toys. In my early days of mamma hood I often left the TV on just for background noise, to keep me company, I guess. At the time, I hadn’t learned the importance of letting God and His Word keep me company!! Those were the days when I was still fickle and inconsistent in my relationship with Him, finding my way back after years of going my own way.

Sad, but true.

The Twenty Minute Workout was hosted by a woman whose name has escaped me. She and 2 other beautiful women with sculpted bodies and cute coordinating leotards, complete with leg warmers and tights, instructed the viewing audience in a highly energized aerobic fitness routine. I sat and watched that first time, completely enthralled.

The next morning, I donned sweatpants and a t-shirt (cute leotards, tights and the leg warmers would come later) and with all the determination and gusto I could muster, I not only watched, I joined them right there in the living room of my apartment. I’m so glad there was no one but my little boy to watch me moving around the room like that, moving my body in ways that made my bones and muscles squeal with delight. Yes, delight. Because I was hooked.

I started on an aerobic fitness journey for the next 10 years that kept me fit and focused and did wonders for my poor self-esteem. After a couple of years, The Twenty Minute Workout was completely embedded in the halls of my memory bank. I no longer needed the TV. I could take my workout with me everywhere I went and, believe me, I did. When Jazzercise came to town during those lean years I soon learned that 20 minutes of aerobics was no longer enough for me. Jazzercize became my new thing! Three to 4 times a week I danced to music with a roomful of other women for hour-long sessions of intense dance routines that left me breathless.

How I wish I could find my exercise-happy these days. I’m so fickle and inconsistent with exercise that sometimes I just want to scream, “Jesus, PLEASE! Help me take care of this old body. Help me find something….ANYthing…that I love as much as The Twenty Minute Workout!” (Doesn’t sound very spiritual, I know, but I really, really loved that workout and I’ve never found any other exercise I love as much.)

See…it’s important we love it or else we won’t want to do it.

We’re already eight days into 2016. And, guess what? I’ve not even gone for one 40 minute walk around town.

Not one.

And I used to enjoy walking.

I’ve been feeling kinda puny lately. Back in December some health issues creeped into my life and I’m not going to lie…they were kinda serious. After an initial trip to the emergency room, I’ve been passed from doctor to doctor, been wheeled around on more than one gurney for more than one test, and I’m still not done. As one doctor stated, “It might take several tries before you get an answer.”

I haven’t felt much like exercising, but I’ve noticed something….in the last couple of months I’ve gone from walking to standing to sitting.

A LOT of sitting.

And I don’t like it at all.

This morning I was thinking of Psalm 1 where the idea of walking…not standing…not sitting…

speaks to a man who is blessed. A man who is happy. A man who finds delight in the law of the Lord. A man who finds his happy-place by meditating on God’s Word and then living it out.

A man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked but walks in the counsel of his God.

A man who doesn’t stand in the path of sinners but walks in the path of righteousness.

A man who doesn’t sit in the seat of mockers but walks to the throne of grace.

This man is so happy he’s like a tree. A flourishing tree. A tree with a healthy life and breath and soul prosperity. A tree with strong branches and leaves and spirit fruit. A tree with a mighty trunk and bark and godly roots. A tree where the heart of it is fed water from fresh streams that never run dry.

Man won’t receive all this goodness lying down day after day, just staring at his Bible. Oh no. He must open it. And read it. And study it. And ponder it. And embed it upon his memory bank so he can take it wherever he goes.

And then…then…he must put it to practice. He must sit up. He must get up. He must walk it out, exercising his faith with assurance that all he has and all he needs is found in Jesus, the Living Word.

I’ve come a long way in my walk with Jesus since those early days of my return. I’m not as fickle as I used to be, but I’m not as consistent as I want to be. Yet, of this I’m sure…

The counsel of God is my plumbline.

The path of righteousness is my guideline.

The throne of grace is my bloodline.

The Word of God is my lifeline.

And I am so incredibly blessed. I’m not just happy, I’m delighted. Loving the Word has become part of my fitness journey of faith. I want to read it, know it, live it.

Because I am hooked.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3  

Thanksgiving, My Happy Place

 

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November is my favorite month of the year. It’s the month my mother gave birth to me, the day God chose to bring me into this world. Sometimes my birthday even falls on Thanksgiving Day. But, that’s not the real reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have fond memories of spending the holiday with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. It didn’t matter whether my birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day or not, my grandmother always had a birthday cake for me. I learned early in life that Thanksgiving was all about giving thanks and treasuring family. This was a happy place for me.

Twelve years ago, something memorable happened to me in the month of November. I had brain surgery nine days before my birthday. Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning for me that year. I may not have been able to spend any time at all on preparations, but I never felt so loved, so grateful, so safe. Surrounded by my family, I knew in my heart that I had been given a great gift…life. God had preserved my life.

One year later I would come to understand that not only is life a gift, life is hope.

And hope does not disappoint.

“And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

Hope, the joyful and confident expectation for a certain thing to happen, like eternal life. The indescribable gift of life forever with my God, the Giver of every good and perfect gift…with Jesus, the Keeper and Sustainer of my heart.

One year after brain surgery…in this beautiful, wonderful month of thankfulness that I love…the day before I would celebrate my 46th birthday…my friend, Leslie, passed from this earth and entered into her heavenly home. Her brain surgery had been one month before mine. She spent a month in the hospital. I spent four days. Her tumor was malignant. Mine was benign. She grew weaker. I grew stronger. She endured radiation and chemotherapy and then, sadly, hospice came.

I went to visit Leslie four days before she passed away. Her husband had warned me not to be disappointed if she didn’t respond to me. The pain medications were keeping her sedated, but God in His infinite grace and lovingkindness gave me the most precious gift. Leslie lit up and responded to my presence. I told her stories. She listened. I laughed. She giggled. I held her hand. She held mine back. I prayed for her and watched tiny little tears fall from the corners of her eyes, trickling down behind her ears as she lay back on her pillow. I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her. Then, I said good-bye.

Her mother-in-law walked me to the porch and told me that Leslie had come “alive” for me more than most people who visited her in those last days. I think I know why. We shared a common bond. Brain tumor. Brain surgery. Though we suffered afflictions–Leslie’s were oh-so-much-more than mine–we knew the process of enduring, of proving our character, of producing hope. I still witness the reaction of others when I tell them I had brain surgery–jaws drop open. Hearts race. Fears rise.

I had once asked Leslie in the midst of her chemotherapy treatments and radiation, “What is the one thing you fear more than anything?” She didn’t hesitate. There was no fear for herself, only for her sons. I got that. Before my surgery, I had pondered similar fears. Oh, the depths of a mother’s love.

Sometimes life is so very sad, but in the sadness we come to experience new ways of relating to our heavenly Father. I came to understand hope in a way I never had before. For several years after Leslie’s death, every November I became melancholy. Maybe not so much in sadness as in deep reflection. Why does God increase the days of one life and not another? I’m convinced God wanted Leslie in heaven with Him. She was ready to meet her Maker. There’s no fear in that. Only hope. The best way I can honor Leslie’s life is to live mine well.

I’m learning that a heart of thankfulness doesn’t mean I thank God for hardship or heartache or handicaps. I don’t thank Him for cancer or disease or tumors…I thank God for what these things produce in me. I thank Him for the endurance to persevere under afflictions. I thank Him for the fruit of Christ’s character produced from the roots growing strong in the soil of my heart. I thank Him for the hope of heaven…

…where there will be no tears. No pain. No sadness. No sickness. No death. No more good-byes.

Only life.

I thank God for Novembers. It’s still my favorite month. I thank God for Thanksgivings. It’s still my favorite holiday. I thank God for birthdays. It’s still a day to celebrate. I want to live my life in a way that honors the Life-Giver because one day God will want me in heaven with Him. I’ll be ready to meet my Maker and I will not be disappointed. This is my happy place, even in sadness. And in my melancholy of deep reflection I picture Leslie’s reunion with her family in heaven one day…together again. And there I’ll be, watching and waiting my turn to greet her because she and I still share a common bond…

Life Eternal.