Engaging with Scripture in the midst of life

Psalm 68Some days, the Bible is thick with inspiration.  

We sit down with the Scriptures, and something magic happens. Maybe it’s because we are fully present in a way not always common. Maybe it is just chance. But whatever the case may be, we are overcome by what we read. It fills us and fuels us and makes us feel the Bible must really be something magical.


Other days, the Bible is dry.


We try, try, try to find something in it that connects with our hearts, but we just can’t. The words feel like they are from another world. For another time. Not for us, not for our lives. They are dry. Boring. Irrelevant.


And still other days, there just isn’t time.


We can squeeze in reading its words, but not much more than that. We sit down to write a blog post about a Psalm in between going to a conference and going to a retreat and being in the middle of so much life, and there just isn't much to say. It’s not that there’s anything wrong about that particular Psalm, it’s just that we can’t pull off a reflection.


Today is one of those days.


That’s life.


And that’s okay.


We are human. We need to have realistic expectations of ourselves, of God, and of the Bible. Ups and downs are normal. Differing levels of engagement are normal.


We don’t have to beat ourselves up when lightning doesn’t strike. We can celebrate that we showed up. And we can just count it as an ordinary day with God. Which makes it not very ordinary at all.


So today, I look forward to hearing your reflections on Psalm 68. And I’ll just leave you with the verse that struck me the most.


Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,     who daily bears our burdens.

- Psalm 68:19

On choosing inspiration instead of comparison

The Internet saved me this weekend. It was my son’s 6th birthday party. I needed to keep six 6 year olds entertained for two hours. It is possible that after scanning through the recesses of my imagination for ages, I might have discovered one or two fun ideas. But I have no illusions of grandeur about my ability to be fun. Honestly, I’m kind of boring.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who are more entertaining than me. As a result, the kids had a blast. They leapt over “buildings” (cardboard boxes) in a single bound, navigated through “laser beams” (crepe paper) without getting hit, and captured a “villain” (my husband) with a hula hoop.

The party was a success thanks to many people I have never met. I stand here today, grateful for Pinterest.

The Internet fills our lives with possibilities. Yet, the wonder of that often gets lost beneath our own junk.

I could have looked at the perfect cardboard buildings created by another mom and felt pressure to do the same. Comparison could have trapped me into thinking I needed to make my son’s party look the same as the ones those other kids had. But I know that’s not me. There are many, many things I would rather do than cover boxes in brown paper and cut out perfectly square windows. So I didn’t. I let my son color the fronts on buildings until he didn’t want to do it anymore. And the rest? I left blank.

My son had fun. I did, too. And I do not regret leaving those boxes plain. Not in the slightest. I know that if I had, stress would have invaded my spirit.

I am thankful that this time, I got it right. This time, I did not get sucked into the comparison trap. Too often, I have. Too often, I have suffocated under the weight of my own expectations to do everything as good as everyone else. I have failed to recognize that I am not good at everything. I have failed to see comparison for what it is: a thief.

Comparison robs us of the potential we have to inspire each other.

It steals our joy as we notice all the ways we have fallen short. It strips our energy as we waste our efforts trying to be like someone else. Comparison deprives us from reaching our dreams as we hold onto our envy of someone else’s successes.

We can rediscover the wonder of the Internet when we stop. All. The. Comparison. When we see each other the way God sees us: as creatures made in His Image, each filled with a potential and beauty uniquely our own. We are made to bless each other with these gifts we’ve been given. And often, the biggest stumbling block to that happening is our own hearts.

In order to be blessed, we need to receive each other’s gifts as blessings. We must trade comparison for inspiration.

I am blessed … by those who demonstrate the beauty that can lie within a single sentence. … by those who raise difficult faith questions even at risk being hurt by the backlash. … by those who make their homes into works of art. … by those who create music that slows down my soul and stops my breath. … by those who boldly tell stories of their past in hopes of helping others. … by those who turn ideas into movements that make the world a better place. … by those who follow God, even when He leads them through uncomfortable territory. … by those who put together recipes that make my mouth water just by looking at them. … by those who love Jesus and proclaim the Gospel without apology. … by those who write and teach and lead and craft and cook and parent and paint and tell stories and question and risk and rescue and examine and adventure and love, love, love.

Many times, you are better at these things than I am. And that is absolutely okay. Because you are you, and I am me. I can choose to let go of the comparison and hold onto the inspiration. I choose to be blessed by you.

Thank you for being you. Keep being you. Don't hold back from sharing the fullest version of you with the world. And I will try to do the same.

How I am inspired by the Prayer of Saint Patrick

I used to tune out every time I heard a prayer written by someone else. When I began to understand my relationship with God as that, a relationship, I found pre-written prayers dry. They seemed inauthentic to me. I wanted to speak to God with my own words. My prayers were spontaneous utterances of thanksgiving, praise, and love.

This is not a bad thing.

These impromptu prayers helped me express myself to God in the way the liturgy of my youth did not. I felt His presence. I grew in my love.

But the longer I follow God, the more I appreciate the prayers I used to ignore.

When I compare my relationship to God to another important love relationship in my life, my marriage, I begin to understand.

I feel loved when my husband spontaneously expresses his love to me. When he sees me enter a room and tells me I am beautiful. When he thanks me for making dinner.

But I also feel loved when my husband thoughtfully expresses his love to me. When he finds me the perfect gift. When he takes the time to craft me a love note.

Who would not want the one she loves to recite to her "How do I love thee, Let me count the ways" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Or even better, an original poem?

Love is found in words that take time. Beauty created to express the splendor of the beloved.

This is the power of historic prayers.

They help me express myself to God in words I cannot find myself. They inspire me to slowly create my own poetic prayers.

So, on Saint Patrick's Day, I thought it appropriate to reflect upon the Prayer of Saint Patrick. As is true of many old prayers, this is attributed to him, but may or may not have been actually written by him. That doesn't matter to me. Because either way, this prayer inspires me.

It is long. Longer than I could fit on the picture below. But yet, its thought could have been expressed easily in a tweet. "God, be in and around everything I do, see, and think this day."

This prayer is not in a hurry. It thoughtfully expresses dependence on God in all things. It shows a desire for God to the central focus of life.

I am inspired by this prayer to linger a little longer. To craft words a little more carefully. To write God a love poem. I hope it inspires you, too.

For the full prayer, see Saint Patrick's Breastplate on Wikipedia. Above are some of my favorite parts. Click on it to print or download it as an 8 x 10. Or simply read it and enjoy.

If you like this, you may also enjoy some of the other printables available on the Resources page.