The Chorus that Sings through the Scriptures

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.

They are the words that were sung when the ark of the Lord, the primary symbol of God’s presence, was finally returned to Jerusalem after years of being lost (1 Chronicles 16:34).

They are the words that were sung when that same ark was placed in the Temple for the first time (2 Chronicles 5:13), and when fire came down from heaven and the Glory of the Lord filled that space (2 Chronicles 7:3).

They are the words that were sung after the exile, when the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem and began to build the Temple once again (Ezra 3:11).

They are words that close the Shepherd Psalm 23 and the Thanksgiving Psalm 100. They are the words that open Psalm 107, and provide the introduction to the third book of the Psalter,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.” – Psalm 107:1

The goodness and love of the Lord seem to be the most repeated of God’s characteristics, the chorus that sings throughout the Scriptures.

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How would you define “good”?

It is in Genesis, when the Lord is forming the earth, that the word “good” is first used. “Towb” is the word God uses to describe the new world He is creating.

It is in Genesis 1:11-12 that God brings life to His creation for the first time. But God doesn’t create plants, He creates seeds. It is the earth that brings to fruition the life that was in His imagination. But God doesn’t call the plants good. What He declares to be good is plants bearing the seeds of future life.

This points the way to what it means to believe in the “towb” of God. God’s goodness is life that brings life that brings life that brings life.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” is a declaration that our God is One who brings life and the progression of life. Our God is the Light to our darkness, the Water to our thirst, and the Bread to our hungry souls.

Sometimes, our belief in God’s goodness feels unshakeable. The life is springing all around us, and we are satisfied in ways we know can only come from Him.

Other times, belief in God’s goodness feels like a mental chasm too vast to leap. Death feels much more tangible than light.  What then?

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How would you define “love”?

The word for love in Psalm 107:1 is “checed” in Hebrew. This is the word some translations render “lovingkindness” or “faithful love.”  Because it is not simply a word for affection, but of covenantal devotion.

God’s checed love is what the Jesus Storybook Bible defines as a “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

God’s checed love is a promise that no matter how we feel or what we do, His love will pursue us all the days of our lives.

“His love endures forever.” is a declaration that our God’s love for us is not dependent on our obedience or the strength of our faith. God’s love is an everlasting commitment to me that is not dependent on my devotion to Him. (Thanks be to God.)

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“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.” – Psalm 107:1

It seems natural that praise for God’s love and thanks for God’s goodness would go hand-in-hand. Soil hardens, gets dry, and grows weeds. It takes devotion to tend to the earth and prepare it to be a place where seeds can grow.

Perhaps it is God’s love that cultivates us, and allows life to be brought forth by His goodness again and again and again and again.

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A life of faith is not a linear journey. Like the Israelites, we will meander through devotion and doubt, faithfulness and failure.  But no matter where we go, we can hear this chorus singing through the ages,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”


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Breakthrough, A Reflection on Psalm 57

  I have trouble spelling Brenna's last name, but that's okay, because on Twitter she goes by Brenna D anyway. And, it feels right to think of her on a first name basis, even though we have never met in person. I think most people feel that way about her. Her presence is a warm and encouraging gift to many. I hope her words are a gift to you today.


 

I've spoken before, about these Psalms, about my heart clamoring alongside David's very heart. I have felt it coming from all sides and cried out to my God, praying for deliverance, asking for help. I look back on my Bible and I can see tear stains next to some of these Psalms, the ones that I would read aloud over and over as my prayer to God when my own words failed me.

 

But today. Today I read this Psalm, a Psalm of deliverance and praise.

 

Praise.

 

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens And Your truth to the clouds. Be exalted above the heavens, O God! Let Your glory be above all the earth.

Psalm 57:7-11, NASB

 

How did I miss that? How have I never noticed the words of praise that came from David's lips? These are words that have filled the songs we sing at church. These phrases and word combinations are ingrained in me and as I read them I can hear the melodies that accompany them. And yet, in my fear, in my longing, in my desperation the only words I saw were his words of supplication.

 

I think that sums up the past few years of my life. It's a horrid thing to admit and I feel exposed as I share the raw and tattered bits of my heart. But it's a true thing and I have to believe that I am not the only one. Is it a universal, or perhaps at least a Westernized, feeling to be so wrapped up in our pain, in our hurt, in our disappointments, that we can't see past them?

 

I don’t think I’m alone.

Breakthrough

This past weekend I went on a writing retreat with some amazing people. As I drove the two and a half hours to a cabin in Michigan, I was alone with my thoughts. I recalled the events and the feelings which had shaped me and made me who I was at that moment - tired, fearful, cynical, and entirely not myself. My empty car suddenly felt very full.

 

We sat that first night in a circle, and wrote on post-it notes two words that described us at that moment. I held back tears as I scribbled out in black ink the truth on a blue, sticky square. Moments later I held an orange square and we were asked to write two words that we wanted to describe us. The words came from a part of me I don't even like to go to, because hope has become a liability. But I wrote them out, feeling miles away from them.

 

The next day I took a walk. I walked outside and even though the air was cool, the sun shined bright on me, casting shadows through the leaves of the trees that covered me as I walked down paths, finding my way to the lake that was somewhere hidden behind the cabins. I followed the well worn path and came to a V in the road. I chuckled to myself as I heard the words of Robert Frost echo in the great expanse.

Two Paths

It was a moment of realization. Perhaps it was the fresh air. Maybe the shining sun. The dirt road underneath my feet? Or maybe it was a heart that was open to hearing the Spirit. But I knew that I had two choices. I could continue on as I have been, and I would spend my days crying out for deliverance. Or, I could live a life of praise, even when the circumstances around me whisper to me that things will never change.

 

I know it would be foolish to imagine I live in a utopian dream world where I will never have struggles, never want to shake God and ask Him why. And that’s not what I am choosing. I am simply making a decision to praise, even after I yell to the heavens. To praise, after I cry, crumpled on the floor. To sing His goodness, even in the midst of my pain.

 


Brenna Bio PicAbout Today’s Guest Blogger: Brenna D'Ambrosio

Brenna is a city-living, tender-hearted wife and mama to three little girls who encourage her daily to seek out the beauty in life. She loves travel, Diet Coke, homemade bread, and Indian food. There is always something cooking in her oven so stop on by. You will most likely find her either shuffling her girls off to an activity or cuddling with her family at home. She blogs about brokenness and redemption at Beautiful Things  and you can find her on Twitter and Facebook too.


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What does happiness look like?

  A year ago, I wondered whether this would be the happiest year of my life.

 

I was turning 33, and research had come out that suggested that is our best year.

 

So, today, on my 34th birthday, I am compelled to reflect.

 

It wasn’t an unhappy year, by any means. But I often equate happiness with ease, and it definitely wasn’t a year of smooth sailing.

 

In the last year, I moved across states for the second time in as many years. I transitioned from stay-at-home-mom to working-mom, back in the saddle of vocational ministry. I also transitioned into mom-of-a-school-age-child as my son entered kindergarten. (Boy, that transition made me feel old!) And, I spent much of the last 8 months sick with one bug or another as I caught all the germs brought home from the petri dish of elementary school.

 

I have had trouble keeping it all together. The blogging world has been slipping away from me, as I have struggled to keep up with writing posts, responding to comments, and reading the posts of others. I haven’t volunteered in my son’s classroom as much as I wanted, or even kept track of all the things we were supposed to be doing from home. There is a list of books I want to read and projects I want to do that seems to get longer every day.

 

It wasn’t a terrible year by any means. It fell as most years of our lives do, somewhere on the spectrum between difficult and easy, frustrating and euphoric. But was it happy?

 

I guess that depends how we define happiness. Is it laughter and light-heartedness, or is it something deeper?

 

What does happiness look like?

 

In the midst of transitions and frustrations, I entered another year of being me.

 

That means another year with the man I have been married to for over a decade. With each year that passes, with him and my children, I understand love on a new level. I experience the with-ness, and for-ness, and doing-life-together-ness of life and love, which is sometimes messy, but also amazing.

 

That means another year not being superwoman. Those unmet expectations and undone tasks bother me so much less than they used to. I am a human. I am not good at everything. And my worth is not defined by what I do. The deeper this lesson sinks into my soul, the more peace fills my days.

 

That means another year as a child of God. I am a child who is beloved no matter what, and is called to love in the same way. My faith is becoming less and less my performance, and more and more my roots.

 

happiness is goodnessThat means another year of learning. Learning the value of pursuing possibilities instead of fearing disappointment. Learning to be in pictures instead of just taking them. Learning how much I know and how much I still have to discover. Learning to give and receive grace. Learning to stand on the solid Rock when waves of uncertainty are crashing all around my feet. Learning what are really the most important things in life.

 

Was this year filled with glee? No. But was it good? Absolutely.

 

Maybe happiness comes when we understand that it looks more like goodness than it looks like delight. And I am confident that there are more good things to come.