Monday, October 3, 2016

this is my story, this is my song

There is an old hymn running through my heart and mind today. The chorus starts with these words: “This is my story; this is my song…”
I started thinking about it because of a Scripture text we read together this morning during family prayer time. We’ve been reading through a particular version of the Psalms, written by Eugene Peterson, in a unique rendering of the Bible called The Message. About three weeks ago we began reading one psalm almost every weekday and today’s reading happened to be Psalm 16. Here it is:

Keep me safe, O God,
    I’ve run for dear life to you.
I say to God, “Be my Lord!”
    Without you, nothing makes sense.
And these God-chosen lives all around—
    what splendid friends they make!
Don’t just go shopping for a god.
    Gods are not for sale.
I swear I’ll never treat god-names
    like brand-names.
My choice is you, God, first and only.
    And now I find I’m your choice!
You set me up with a house and yard.
    And then you made me your heir!
The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake
    is confirmed by my sleeping heart.
Day and night I’ll stick with God;
    I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.
I’m happy from the inside out,
    and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
    that’s not my destination!
Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
    all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
    I’m on the right way.

When I read David’s song this morning, I thought: “What a fitting thing to read on my birthday!” I felt like the story of my life is reflected in these words. 

I’ve run for dear life to you. I say to God, “Be my Lord.”

                I remember when I first gave my life to God. I had spent about two and a half years leading a double life, I’m sad to say. So, when I finally realized that turning my life over to God was an all or nothing deal, my first thought was: “God will never take me back. Not after all I’ve done to deny him.”
                But that afternoon in the summer of 1984, I was overcome with a sense that God was not finished with me yet, that God loved me and would always accept me…that he would freely forgive me for going my own way for so long. I cried my eyes out that afternoon, and ever since then God has changed my life. This is my story; this is my song.

Without you, nothing makes sense.

                One of the first things to change was my approach to school. I knew that God wanted me to give my all in whatever I was facing. More importantly, I knew that God would help me, that I could call on God to help me be a learner. As I offered my mind to God, and prayed for God’s help with school, I saw that God was able to help me learn well, to make sense of things.
                I don’t mean to imply “I know it all”; rather, I mean to say that the Spirit of God is able to shed light on what was darkened before, to instill one’s heart and mind with understanding that has no origin in mere human intellect.
                The wisdom of God is foolishness to humans, but by God’s Spirit, and not by any merit of our own, someone can see meaning where others see meaninglessness.
                These days it seems our world is becoming increasingly confusing. We are hard pressed to make sense of how we should respond in the midst of ambiguity and controversy. So, believing in God seems like foolishness to us. That’s what faith is for and that’s why faith precedes genuine understanding. Many of history’s greatest thinkers concur.

My choice is you, God…and now I find I’m your choice!

                In the summer of ’84 I made my choice to follow God, but that decision was small in comparison to God’s choice to pursue me—and all of us. God went to great lengths, sending his one and only Son to come close to us, to die for us. God showed us the full extent of his love for us in Jesus, all to say: “I choose you! I want you to know me!”
                I can think of nothing else that surpasses the wondrous thought that God comes after us to show us his love.
                This is my story; this is my song.   

I’m happy from the inside out

Joy. That has become my passion these past five years or so. I am convinced that a life without joy is a shriveled life. I call the joyful life "a PlayFull life."
No matter how many accomplishments one may acquire, no matter how wealthy one becomes, no matter how esteemed or famous one may be…if you don’t have joy, you have nothing.
Too many people live under exorbitant stress. Too many are “driven” to become “something”, to “succeed.” We buy and sell to become happy. We fix and flatter. We spin and splurge. But we often do so because we have an unconscious urge to prove ourselves to others…and ourselves.
That is not joyful living. But the “inside out” happiness David talks about here is the antithesis of the pressured life. It is a simple trust in a God who delights in the world, who rejoices over us with singing, whose laughter makes waves, seen and unseen.
If God is love, he is also joy. After all, you cannot love without experiencing the Joy of love.
This is my story; this is my song.

Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
    all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I’m on the right way.

                Yes, God took my hand. God turned me around. He put my feet on the path of life. And God, my friend, who has been with me one year after the next, keeps lighting the way when I would turn to the darkness of doubt and self-sufficiency.
                On this, my birthday, I want my story and my song to be about the God who grants joy, forgiveness, hope, and meaning. I want my song to be about the God who provides and guides, who remains faithful, even when I am faithless…who believes when I cynically scoff.
Let my story, my song be about a God who saves to the uttermost.


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