Psalm 27: The One and Only “One Thing”

Praying the Psalms

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to inquire in His temple.”
(Psalm 27:4)

It’s curious – or is it? – that this “one thing” Davids asks is actually a trinity of things.

To dwell.
To behold.
To inquire.

First, he is both asking and seeking. He is asking God for this, because he knows it must come from Him as a gift. This “thing” belongs properly to God, and so it is His to give. And yet David also seeks it, for the kingdom of God seems to be ordered in this way – that the best things are had by those who will seek for them. The search itself, the way to them, is also part of their intrinsic goodness. They would not be so worthy had we not set our hearts to search them out.

This is the dynamic of prayer. We ask, and He answers – “Seek.” Perhaps the seeking makes clear not only the thing, but the heart behind the thing. We ask for a thing, and God invites us into His Person, there to find ourselves in Him, and every other thing added unto us.

But back to this trinity.

To dwell in the house of the LORD.

Oh, this is His place, His presence. This is His residence. To dwell where He dwells, to live and move and His being. To find our refuge, our shelter, our resting place, our refreshment. To find our home. To find our family and our good Father.

To behold the beauty of the LORD.

As if the first was not enough – this! To come face to face with beauty, not in the abstract, not with a work of art, but with the Artist. To have eyes opened, veil lifted, and not burn up at the glory of Him all. To gaze – and gaze – and see our very Lord Jesus.

To inquire in His temple.

And now, dwelling in a vision of this our God, to have the audacity to inquire. To make the most intimate of conversations. This inquiry is also a meditation. We find the dialogue of prayer is not cut and dry, but a continuous exchange of thought, as deep calls to deep, as the Spirit within us cries out. A question becomes a conversation. Our minds are renewed in the mind of Christ till we begin to see with His eye.

 

This “one” thing is indeed great. In this threefold action – dwell, behold, inquire – we have a most perfect communion.

He says, “Seek My face,” and in the secret place He bestows a beatific vision. From every angle we are seen, known, and loved.

No wonder the tabernacle is filled with shouts of joy! This one thing, this singular search, ends in a plurality of praise.

“I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD!”

 

~lg

S.D.G.

Lent and the Virtue of Silence

I hadn’t intended to keep silence on the blog since my last post about having a “Gentle Lent.” But perhaps the absence of words is fitting, in a way.

That’s one of the lessons I’ve been learning.  It’s much easier to cut back on harsh words when I cut back on words altogether. There is a temptation to try to keep control simply by volume of things said. Which can lead to nagging, complaining, and the constant droning of mom’s voice, which the the kids are very good at tuning out! With children (and in many other areas of life, I am sure), less is more.

Here’s an epiphany: I don’t have to vocalize every thought in my head! It’s part of humility, and it’s part of patience, and it’s part of self-control.

Part of being slow to anger is being slow to speak. 

I am reminded of the following proverbs:

“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.
But he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19)

“He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” (Prov. 19:27)

James, the wisdom writer of the New Testament, puts it this way:

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) 

Sometimes the best way to reign in harsh words is simply to pause . . . and then not say anything. I’ve been trying it out. During a frustrating episode, I feel the tirade rising from within. My instinct is to let it loose on the little monsters, to let them feel the heat of my frustration and the intensity of my speech. In better moments, I’ve changed the direction of my verbal assault to be less harsh. But in my best moments, I’ve let silence reign, even for a short time.

Silence opens space to breathe. Silence opens space for my emotion to diffuse. Silence opens my ears to ear to hear the wisdom of the Spirit in that moment.

Silence lowers the rising room temperature for all of us. When the volume is turned up, it’s counterproductive to add my voice to the fray. My purposeful silence can readjust the dynamics of the situation better than my words can. More talking often equals more fuel to the fire. But silence diffuses. Silence cools.

Silence gives opportunity for all of us to reorient.

Sometimes, I don’t need to say anything further at all. I’m just so used to inserting myself into situations that often don’t even need my input! There are times just to let it go, and let the kids work things out on their own. Sometimes my silence is enough to reintroduce rational thought into the kids’ brains, and they figure out what they need to do themselves.

Other times, my silence is enough of a pause that what I would have said in the heat of the moment has dissipated, and my rational brain returns, able to handle the demands or distresses of the situation.

I’m finding the virtue of silence helpful, not only in situations that can trigger anger, but also in the general flow of our day. Less is more. More purpose in my words, and more peace in our home.

I’m learning that purposeful silence is a significant key to gentleness.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

 

Praying the Psalms: Gentle Lent

Praying the Psalms

Some of the psalms are so rich I spend days mining their treasures. There are many mornings I simply stay and pray with the psalm of the previous day, because I feel I’m not finished with it yet. Or rather, that it isn’t finished with me! The living word keeps calling me back to whisper one more thing.

“Thou has also given me the shield of thy salvation:
and thy right hand hath holden me up,
and thy gentleness hath made me great.”
(Psalm 18:35)

In this instance, I haven’t been able to shake the last line of that verse. It has been echoing through my mind for days. (That’s the way conviction often works.)

Thy gentleness hath made me great.

It’s one of those upside-down sort of kingdom truths. And, oh, I live so right-side-up most days!!

I have the right to be annoyed by the inconveniences motherhood brings.
I have the right to be angry when my plans for the day are thwarted.
I have the right to let my displeasure be known far and wide in my little kingdom.

Mama’s not happy and you’re going to know about it!

It’s as if I think parenting greatness can be got by huffing and puffing.

But this little word is whispered again – gentleness. She who has ears to hear, let her hear! Careful, or you just might miss it . . . I will show you a more excellent way. 

Lent begins today.

I’ve been praying about how God wants to focus my heart through fasting. Lent is about abstaining from particular “goods” in order to receive what is greater.

And I keep thinking,

What if I fasted from harsh and angry words?
What if I fasted from the frustrated reactions I display when my own will is thwarted?
What if I fasted from lording my authority and demanding respect?

Would this weeding out make room for gentleness to grow its holy fruit?

Oh, it won’t be easy, this I know. Habits must be broken. Thoughts must be renewed. Attitudes must be reformed. If I thought I had the strength in myself, I would have done it by now.

But already I feel this force pushing up from somewhere within, like rising sap. It is Spirit-life. And its strength is through surrender.

A Gentle Lent. This is what I need. And so I pray.

 

Prayer

Lord and Gardener,

I have heard Your gentle whisper. You are calling me to greater life. You are calling me to a more excellent way. You are calling me to cast my handful of seeds into the earth and die to self.

Gentleness is Your fruit. I may not have it in me, but I have it through You. Keep me close to the Vine. Prune my wayward ways. Spirit rise and renew me in Your life. Teach and train my heart to grow aright.

Show me the power of Your gentleness. I want no greatness apart from You.

Amen.

 

~lg

S.D.G.

What Am I Really Asking For When I Pray?

Winter prayer

I came across this quote from Oswald Chambers the other day:

“We ask amiss when we ask simply with the determination to outdo the patience of God until He gives us permission to do what we want to do. Such asking is mere sentimental unreality. And we ask amiss when we ask things from life and not from God; asking from the desire for self-realization is in direct opposition to Christ’s desire for us. The more we realize ourselves the less we will rely on God. Are we asking things of God or of life?”

The part that hit me between the eyes and seemed to daze me for a few minutes was that last line.

Am I asking things of God or of life?

Am I asking God for life to go my way? Or asking to meet life in the presence and power of God?

Today, life may not give me a full night’s sleep, or children with perfect attitudes, or smooth sailing through all the things that must be done.

But God can give me energy, patience, wisdom, and endurance.

Life may give me a headache, a difficult person, or a distressing situation.

But God can give me strength, mercy, and faith. 

Life may be wearying, disappointing, or stressful.

But God is rest, faithfulness, and peace. 

What am I really asking for? For life to favour me? Or for God to favour me? And what is God’s favour if not the gifts and graces that flow from His own life? What is His favour if not His abiding presence?

Should I not be asking most for the things that are His alone to give? The very lifeblood of the Vine, the mind of Christ, and the holy fruit of the Spirit? With these I can meet all circumstances.

To be sure, there are times we pray for God to change my circumstances. This, too, is biblical, when we believe such a change would bring about “Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done.”

But even then, the goal of prayer is not getting my way, but getting God Himself. And He is enough. 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Prayer is living fully with Christ. With this kind of prayer I can walk through my day, regardless of how it turns out, because I am walking with Him.

 

~lg

S.D.G.