What I have learned in 100 Psalms

Psalm 100
Psalm 100

More than 2 years ago, I made the decision to blog my way through the Psalms, in order. Today marks a milestone. Today is Psalm 100.

I have taken a few breaks, and had a few guest posts, but otherwise, I’ve been writing consistently. For more than two years, I have returned to the Psalms week after week to see how this ancient song book might speak to my faith and my life.

It has been a sometimes encouraging, sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes infuriating journey.

It has also been unexpectedly amazing. In the last two and a half years, I have moved to across states, changed jobs (twice), watched my oldest start school, said goodbye to old friends and waved hello to new ones, and through it all, the Psalms have been my constant companion. They are a warm and tattered blanket for my soul.

Today I read the words of Psalm 100, words I have read many other times in my life. But as I look at them now, I realize how differently I see the words in light of the 99 psalms leading up to their message.

Psalm 100 is a praise Psalm. It is filled with the kind of phrases that can be used as empty platitudes over a worshipping space, pressing people to forget the hard stuff of life and put on their smiling faces.

Unless you read the first 99.

The first 99 help us see how the worshipping community has fought their way into this place of praise.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. –Psalm 100:1-2

That though they now shout for joy, they have just as often (if not more often) cried out in grief and despair.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. – Psalm 100:3

That though they now sound confident in the Lord, they have just as often (if not more often) wondered if He had abandoned them.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. –Psalm 100:4

That though they now enter his courts with praise, they have just as often (if not more often) longed for the day when they would have that closeness with him again.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. –Psalm 100:5

The Psalms declare that the Lord is good, but they never say that life is easy. The Psalms proclaim that God’s love endures, but they never claim that pain isn’t its constant companion.The Psalms are the hymns of humanity, weaving through brokenness and beauty in parallel to the experience of our lives.

The Message of Psalms
The Message of Psalms

The Psalms give us permission to approach God as we are, and know that we are welcome. Whether we come with ugly prayers of vengeance or stunning desires of commitment, we are embraced in the never-ending love of our Father.

I, for one, am grateful for that.

In honor of this milestone, I thought I would highlight some of Psalms in the first 100 of this series.

5 of the Most Popular:

5 of My Favorites:

5 of the Most Frustrating (Since the Psalms aren't all roses and flowers, I want this recap list to reflect the wrestling...)

Also in honor of this milestone, I'd like to thank all those who've joined me along the way. First and foremost, for all of you who have read along as I have pushed my way forward on this crazy adventure. Second, to all who have joined me on any of the link ups, including Perfect Number, Kirsten, Brenna, Ben, Jennifer, Marvia, Brandy, Abby, and Janice. (I really hope I didn't miss anyone). Thank you for being part of this with me.

100 down, 50 more to go...

I would love it if you would link up with your own reflection of Psalm 100 below. And stop back next week with thoughts on Psalm 101. Also, if you have participated as a reader or writer, I would love it if you would celebrate with me and comment with any of your reflections or favorites from the first 100.

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Giving Up... The Finish Line

Lent Series Button I was so frustrated.

I couldn’t believe it happened again. This week. The week my therapist and I ended our sessions (for now) because of how much better I’ve been doing. This week, when Monday my feet felt so firmly planted in the “after” of this whole journey of knowing my identity and learning to be.

But after Monday, Tuesday came.

I sat in a meeting in which a few little things added up to make me feel out of place. Then that out of place feeling grew to an angsty feeling, and I found myself going into that night questioning and uncertain about my role, my calling, and my value in this great big beautiful Kingdom of God.

I thought I was past all that.

{Hey friends and family. Guess what? I got a tattoo! Sorry if this is the first you are hearing about it…}

Seriously. I’ve been writing about all this stuff I’ve given up, and I’ve really been doing it. I’ve told people about how I feel like such a different person than I was six months ago. I mean, last week I got a tattoo celebrating this sense of freedom and new identity in Christ.

Among the many questions swirling through my mind and emotions was this one: how did I end up back here so quickly?

I was quick to assume that falling one step back meant I had regressed all the way to the beginning. It felt that way because, even though I wouldn’t have admitted this out loud, I thought I was done. I thought I had crossed some imaginary finish line.

If you think you’ve finished a race, any fall backwards can make you feel like a failure.

The problem is not the back step; it’s the feeling there's a finish line.

The word “journey” becomes an overused metaphor in the Christian life for a reason. Journeys meander. They are not as much about getting from point A to point B as they are about experiencing what comes to you along the way.

I didn’t really go back to the beginning. I can tell the feelings of angst that arose did not rock me as deeply as they once did. This back step was not a failure, but another point on the journey.

In the Old Testament story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, she is distraught by her childless condition. She wrestles and prays and breaks some rules on her journey of surrender to God’s will.

When Hannah finally shares her heart with Eli, our English Bibles translate his reply as, “Go in peace.” But his words could also, and perhaps more accurately, be translated, “Walk towards wholeness.”

Walk towards wholeness.

It’s not about arriving. Or snapping our fingers and getting it all figured out. Or reaching a conclusion and being done. We can’t actually reach that kind of decisive end, as hard as we might strive or wish or struggle to get there.

All we can do is walk towards wholeness on the path of God’s grace.

Giving Up… is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It’s not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn’t in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}

Lead Me Up Your Mountain

  CactiIt was warmer than I anticipated. The temperature was mild, but the sun blazes hot in the desert.


Still, the hike through the canyon was striking. The cacti stretched their arms towards the sun, and let their needles glow in its light, The boulders radiated their red warmth and showed off their quartz sparkle.


Then there was the stream. My eyes were drawn to the juxtaposition of a cool bubbling brook streaming through this arid land. It danced over rocks and meandered its way in and out of our path as it led us up the mountainside.


As I looked around at this scorched terrain with a creek as its middle, I remembered teddy bear cactusPsalm 42. I thought about how those who are parched with desert thirst desperately search for water.


And I wondered if the yearning for water isn’t just about quenching our thirst, but about the way water can lead us to someplace new.


Enter now Psalm 43, which is really just the conclusion of Psalm 42. It even repeats the verse used twice in Psalm 42,


Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in god, For I will yet praise him, desert streamMy Savior and my God. –Psalm 43:5


But there is a difference between the two Psalms. While in Psalm 42, the psalmist declares his thirst and laments of his plight, in Psalm 43, he asks God to direct his path to someplace new.


Send me your light and your faithful care, Let them lead me; Let them bring me to your holy mountain, To the place where you dwell. – Psalm 43:3


What good would it be if God quenched our thirst for just a moment, but kept us in that same arid place? The psalmist asks for more than that: he asks God to lead him up his sacred mountain.


stream up the mountainA mountain gives us perspective. We see the magnificence of rocky trails and dry places that along the way, felt only difficult and frustrating. We see pathways of future journeys, and find direction about where we might go next. Mostly, though, we see how vast the world is and how tiny we are in comparison.


God’s presence gives us that same kind of perspective. The psalmist knows it, and he prays for God to lead him there.


Then, like a desert wanderer daydreaming about a refreshing oasis, the psalmist pictures himself in that place.


Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. – Psalm 43:4 (ESV)


He calls God his exceeding joy. Not just his Prayer-Answerer or his Happiness-Giver, but his Exceeding Joy.


What is amazing is that he calls God this name while still thirsting for him. While still feeling abandoned, the psalmist calls God his Exceeding Joy.


The psalmist has faith that this time in the desert is only part of his journey. That God will send his light and care to guide him to someplace new.


Perhaps those are the two most important things to know when we are in those desert times in our faith journey: that God is there, even when we don’t feel him, and that this part of arid path will not last forever.


When we appreciate those two realities, we can pray with faith. We can lift up prayers of lament, confident that God will not abandon us, and prayers for help, confident that God will one day lead us out.


One day, God’s loving care will lead us up His holy mountain, and we will be amazed by the view.

desert mountain view

walk through the psalmsWalk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.