11 Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection].
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you [consistently] righteous (upright and in right standing with God), and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. (Psalm 97:11-12, AMPC)
Just doing the next thing. “Father, I do not know if this walk will do much good. It is so much less than what I did just a month ago. But the joints are so stiff I must do something.”
I walked slowly, taking care to stand fully upright, shoulders back, consciously using muscles that weeks without working out had weakened. The neighborhood street bordering my complex was lined with only one- and two-story apartments, so I had a full view of the sky overhead. From horizon to horizon, the inverted blue bowl of God’s heaven, dotted with whisps and puffs of cottony white, elicited a feeling of being covered, of being shielded, of being safe. Vast as the sky is, it seemed close and comforting.
I glanced at the paper in my hand.
Light is sown. . . “Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway. . . “
“You know, Lord, when I first memorized this a few months ago, I thought about it in the order in which it is written, that You plant light for us and scatter it along the path of our life. But, today, what I see is that there are two separate actions. You plant good things, like light, far down our path but that You also scatter light right where we are, because it takes time for planted things to bear fruit, so we need some of it now.
To strew means to scatter things on the surface, so Your scatter light we can get to easily, now, right on the surface. But You are always providing for our future so You have also planted light for us to use in the future. Perhaps that light takes time to grow and will be a stronger and brighter than what we find so easily today. Perhaps some of that planted light will grow into a tree. Maybe it will be a fruit tree or a shade tree, providing food for the hungry and rest for the weary.”
Resisting the enemy. Thoughts and sorrows started to push their way into consciousness—When will my family finally yield to Your love? How will I ever get back to health? How will I pay all the bills?
“No! I will not give in to these thoughts. Satan, get behind me! It is written if I am subject to God and I resist you and stand firm against you, you must flee (James 4:7). It is also written that I can do all things because Christ gives me strength, and that includes being vigilant about your attacks, and being firm in faith against you at the onset. God’s Word tells me that my fellow believers all over the world have the ‘same identical sufferings’ (I Peter 5:8-9). I am not being singled out with trials.
Lord, You said that while we are in the world we all have “troubles, trials, distress and frustration.” I will do what You said. I am setting my mind to be of good cheer. I will take courage and be confident, certain and undaunted! I can do that because I believe what You said Lord, that You have overcome the world and You have deprived the world of power to harm me and have conquered it for me. (John 16:33, AMPC).
I will meditate on and delight in the things that are eternal, the unseen things, those things the enemy cannot touch. I will be grateful and thank You for all You have done. I will be thankful for the comfort of Your precious Holy Spirit, for knowing You have prepared a beautiful eternal home for me, and that while on earth I can abide in You and bear much good fruit for Your kingdom. And You reminded Your disciples, and me, of these things so that we may have “perfect peace and confidence.” That means complete peace and complete confidence, about everything.
Help me stay safe in You, Lord! Oh, help me stay in You, safe within You Who are my Rock, safe within the mental and spiritual fortress I create when I say I am taking refuge in You, when I put my trust in You, as Jeremiah did in Lamentations 3:19-33. I remember, Lord, that verse 25 says You are good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for You, to those who seek You. Then the brackets after seek says “inquire of and for You and require You by right of necessity and on the authority of Your Word.”
My precious, precious Heavenly Father, my Faithful and Loving One, I do have need of Your power to overcome this habit of worry and fear that has returned. This is a real need, and I am trying my best and I have the authority of Your Word that reassures me You will give me strength to do this. I will resist these doubts and fears from the enemy at their onset. (I Peter 5:6-9). I will ponder on and speak of the great deeds You have done. I will remind myself of Your mercy and loving kindness toward all that You created. I will think on good things. . . “
As I told that young mom at the park yesterday, ‘You can have as much of God as you want’, Lord, I want all of you that I can absorb and more! Oh, deal with this worrisome flesh, these weaknesses, these tendencies to doubt and fear. Forgive me, Father! I know You are sovereign over all things, I know You are working all things together for Your good and for Your glory and You can only do good. I know that. Please help my heart absorb that truth yet again as I meditate on Your Word, Your precious, loving and living Word.”
Little trees. . .big trees. Along both sides of the street, at each driveway stood a pair of ten-foot-tall cedars. I knew these must have been planted 35 years ago when this area was military housing. Then they would have been no taller than a kindergartner. I know that because in the home where I lived from age 8 to 16, my father planted a pair of cedars bordering our driveway when we first moved in, and in a few more years, these should grow to about the same size.
“What children,” I pondered, “had played chase around these cedars 35 years ago, as my brothers and I had, while they waited for their father to come home from the base as we waited for our father to come home from the rock mine, dodging each other around the little trees, perilously close to the street, a fact about which our mother never worried in those days when kids played, unsupervised, for hours at a stretch, in those long ago days?
Had those children stood proudly beside their dad while he watered the little trees, coaxing them to grow even as he coaxed his children to grow. Had they wheedled him into a short game of catch before they all went in for supper?”
What a deep vein of memory that row of paired, more than mature cedar trees touched, that vein of memories etched into the bedrock of my heart by my father’s love and attention, night after night, homecoming after homecoming to his family.
Childhood. What a mystery! When in it, unaware of the sacrifices of those who love and nurture us, and unable to articulate what the warmth and security mean to us, we seldom express gratitude. Then it takes years before we understand and, far too often, the one who loved us so well is gone.
“But, Lord, I know Daddy understood. And thank You that I did thank him, many times, once I was older, before he passed away. And I know that the love he had for me was directly from You, that he was a channel for Your very own fierce fatherly love”
Help me be grateful, Lord! “Oh, Father! Help me be aware of what You do for me. Help me give You thanks and gratitude. Help me see what You do, like giving light and joy as this psalm says. You gave given me a very good life, even to the present time, to my gray hair season, as you say in Isaiah 46:4.”
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, NIV).”
I reached into my pocket to read the next phrase of Psalm 97:11 but it was gone. I must have not tucked it far enough into the pocket of my hoodie. Turning around, I saw only leaves tumbling down the black asphalt. The wind must have already blown it away.
“Just like that,” I pondered, “We in America could lose our Bibles. Help me, Lord, get more Word hidden in my heart. Help me truly to treasure Your Word.”
In the pondering. As I walked, I pondered verse 11. That familiar rustling stirred inside, that treasured gift of having a thought not my own pop into awareness. How wonderful and how loving that God’s Word is actually alive and interacts with our innermost thoughts and feelings (Hebrews 4:12). It is almost like God speaking to us with an audible voice.
So, I talked that verse over with God, in my heart, as I walked.
11 Light is sown for the [uncompromisingly] righteous and strewn along their pathway, and joy for the upright in heart [the irrepressible joy which comes from consciousness of His favor and protection]. (Psalm 97:11, AMPC)
“Lord, I know this verse means that You scatter light along my path, in unexpected places here and there, and that You also prepare light that I will need far into the future. This verse says the same thing about joy – that You have put joy here and there in unexpected places and also prepared it for the future. The verse says “along the pathway”, which means not just in one spot but all along the length of the path of my life.
Irrepressible joy. I continued thinking, aware that “The irrepressible joy which comes from awareness of His favor and protection” was an instruction, that it suggested being aware of God’s favor and His protection produces joy so intense it cannot be pushed down, not even by the enemy and his vicious attacks on God’s children.
“That is what I need, Lord! Joy! You tell us over and over to rejoice, to cast our cares on You and do not worry. And I know that “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”
I remembered that Ezra said this well-known verse when the people were weeping over their sins because they had just heard and understood the Law and their sins. Yet You told them to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, and not to grieve. You said, right in the midst of their tears of repentance:
“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet drink, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” (Nehemiah 8:10, AMPC)
A stronghold is a place that s fortified against attack. I know You have prepared a place of safety and a source of strength for me, and by Your grace I will look for it and run into it. Father, You know how little joy I have experienced lately but I trust You to help me find that which You have lovingly prepared, just for me. I know You say You busy yourself with our every step when our ways delight You. (Psalm 37:23).
“The trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12). I hesitated before going back inside to resume the day, pausing, as usual, across the street from the three stately sycamores alongside the complex next to mine. Taller than the oaks beside them, their white trunks in stark contrast with the brown of the oaks, their almost bare branches rocked left and right, as smaller branches wobbled in the wind. In the topmost branches, the few remaining clusters of broad leaves fluttered against one another and crackled, a soothing whooshing sound.
“Lord, You have spoken with me, in so many ways, so many years. I remember that cold. February morning walking to work in 1985, occasionally glancing at an index card with John 3:6 written on it. When You first opened that scripture for me, You possibly put the identical thought into my mind that You had put into Nicodemus’s mind on that long ago night when he asked Jesus how to be born again. I know Jesus explained to him that the spiritual world is unseen, like the wind, but that the spiritual world reveals itself by the effects it has, just as the wind reveals itself by the effects, like sound, that it has.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, NIV)
“Father, I cannot see You, but I know You are with me this moment by the peace I feel. And in these recent times when I could not feel Your peace, I know You were with me just as much. I do not know what You are doing to do, any more than I know which way the wind will blow, but I trust You, Father, I trust You with it all, with every care on my heart. And I know You already know each one.
So, on this February morning, 2023, as I watched the sycamores bear witness to the wind, I said in my heart:
“You are good and all that You do is good. I know You will help me. I know You have prepared light and joy for me, this day and far into my future. I know You will lead me in the path You want me to travel (Proverbs 3:5-6).
And I know You will give that “irrepressible joy that comes from awareness of Your favor and protection.” By Your grace, I will think about You and the good that You do, I will mind heavenly things, I will cast my cares on You and rejoice and think on good things. Your Word never fails, Lord, and You promise peace if we keep our mind fixed on You.
Father, I know You are always with me, You will always help me, You will always give me Your joy and You are always in complete, sovereign control of my life. So, I will rejoice and again I say, I will choose to be joyful. . .”
And I continued with the rest of the day God had made, for me, and for you.