Motives Matter

I got to thinking this morning about what motivates us to do whatever it is we do at any given point in time. Specifically, I was thinking about ulterior motives. Collin Dictionary defines ulterior motives as follows: (Noun): if you say that someone has an ulterior motive for doing something, you believe that they have a hidden reason for doing it, as in “Sheila had an ulterior motive for trying to help Stan.” (Quote source here.) And at YourDictionary.com the following definition is stated: “An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason.” (Quote source here.)

We are all familiar with the concept of ulterior motives, and we have all been guilty of, or a victim of, our own or others’ ulterior motives. And sometimes it is very hard to tell when we are being manipulated by others who have ulterior motives. In an article published on PsychCentral.com titled, How to Spot Manipulation,” by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, author and licensed marriage and family therapist, and relationship and codependency expert, (the entire article is a 4-minute read available at this link), here are a few highlights from her article:

We all want to get our needs met, but manipulators use underhanded methods. Manipulation is a way to covertly influence someone with indirect, deceptive, or abusive tactics. Manipulation may seem benign or even friendly or flattering, as if the person has your highest concern in mind, but in reality it’s to achieve an ulterior motive. Other times, it’s veiled hostility, and when abusive methods are used, the objective is merely power. You may not realize that you’re being unconsciously intimidated.

If you grew up being manipulated, it’s harder to discern what’s going on because it feels familiar. You might have a gut feeling of discomfort or anger, but on the surface the manipulator may use words that are pleasant, ingratiating, reasonable, or that play on your guilt or sympathy, so you override your instincts and don’t know what to say. Codependents have trouble being direct and assertive and may use manipulation to get their way. They’re also easy prey for being manipulated by narcissists, borderline personalities, sociopaths, and other codependents, including addicts.

Favorite weapons of manipulators are: guilt, complaining, comparing, lying, denying (including excuses and rationalizations), feigning ignorance, or innocence (the “Who me?” defense), blame, bribery, undermining, mind games, assumptions, “foot-in-the-door,” reversals, emotional blackmail, evasiveness, forgetting, fake concern, sympathy, apologies, flattery, and gifts and favors. Manipulators often use guilt by saying directly or through implication, “After all I’ve done for you,” or chronically behaving needy and helpless. They may compare you negatively to someone else or rally imaginary allies to their cause, saying that, “Everyone” or “Even so and so thinks xyz” or “says xyz about you”….

Fake concern is sometimes used to undermine your decisions and confidence in the form of warnings or worry about you….

[The article ends with this statement] The first step is to know with whom you’re dealing. Manipulators know your triggers. Study their tactics and learn their favorite weapons. Build your self-esteem and self-respect. This is your best defense. Also, learn to be assertive and set boundaries. (Quote source and full article available at this link.)

Does any of that sound familiar? Here’s an article that might help. It is titled, How to Disarm a Manipulator,” published on Power of Positivity,” (the author’s name is not mentioned):

A key element to a happier life is being surrounded by a supportive and influential network of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, though, we can mistake influencers with manipulators and it can be hard to tell the difference.

It’s rare to find those who will invest time and energy into something that doesn’t have the potential for some personal gain. Just like in business we calculate the ROI (return on investment) for our friendships, maybe not in such a black and white way, but it happens.

A manipulator knows how to get what they need with little effort from themselves but at great cost to others. They find ways to work around the system (or you) for their benefit, so even though your ROI is low, you still take the time to invest in the relationship.

Manipulators spend a lot of time and energy creating an environment where they can control the outcome, so their needs are constantly met by others. The biggest problem of a manipulative relationship is we often don’t even know it’s happening, and we allow it to continue.

HERE ARE 4 WAYS TO DISARM A MANIPULATOR:

RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM

It should come as no surprise that you must recognize there is a problem before you can solve it. The first sign of a problem is leaving an encounter with someone not feeling quite right and questioning the outcome. If you have questions and doubts around something you promised or agreed to, it might be time to start questioning the motives behind the request.

Here are some characteristics of manipulators:

  • Their needs take precedence over everyone else’s.
  • They expect you always to be available on a moment’s notice.
  • They are often in a crisis that requires immediate action.

Another key indicator of a manipulative relationship is when other friends start to notice the imbalance of the give and take with someone else. Pay attention to the people around you and their opinions. It is often easier to see things from the outside looking in.

ASK QUESTIONS

Part of a manipulative relationship is the never-ending demands that are put upon us. They are usually phrased in such a way that we should feel privileged at the opportunity to help.

Because a manipulator thrives on control, it is helpful to take away some of that control by putting the focus back on them by asking questions. The right kind of questions can help make them aware of the one-sided value to the request and can signal that you are aware of their behavior. For example:

  • I see how this helps you. Can you help me understand how this benefits me?
  • Do I have a say in how this goes forward?
  • Does this seem like a reasonable request to you?
  • Does it seem fair to you that you are asking me to do…?

When you ask probing questions, you are shining a light on the true nature of their request. If there is any self-awareness, then they will usually see the situation for what it is and change the request or withdraw it altogether.

SAY “NO” AND STAND FIRM

You can only control your actions. That is important because you will not be able to change the behavior of a manipulator, but you can stop being their victim. That happens when you start saying “no.”

We are manipulated because we allow it and refusing to be manipulated is the first step in breaking the cycle. Manipulators are good at what they do, so pay attention to their response. They are likely to say or do things that pull at the heart strings. We should stand firm in our “no,” knowing that we are taking the first step towards freeing ourselves from their influence.

USE TIME TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Manipulators are good at what they do and will have all sorts of responses to our objections. They also know their best opportunity to get us on board with their scheme is to get us to agree immediately. Instead of committing to the request, we can try using time to our advantage.

“Let me get back to you.”

That one statement puts the power of the situation back in our court. It gives us the ability to really assess the situation and allows us to find a reasonable and respectful way to decline if that is what we want to do.

We stay in a relationship for all sorts of reasons, but we should only stay in it if it is serving us. And one of the ways our relationships serve us is by us serving them. So while someone important might need more attention and help from us because of a major life change, over time the relationship honors the needs of everyone.

Needless to say, a manipulator doesn’t buy into this philosophy. Remember it is okay to create boundaries and say “no” for our well-being. After all, we are better prepared to help others when we put ourselves first. (Quote source here.)

We’ve all been on the giving end and the receiving end of ulterior motives, and it’s not fun being on the receiving end. As far as our own responsibility goes as to being the person with ulterior motives, when it comes to the topic of motives, ulterior or otherwise, the following article comes from a Biblical perspective on motives and answers the question, What does the Bible say about motives?” at GotQuestions.org. Here is their answer:

The Bible has a lot to say about our motives. A motive is the underlying reason for any action. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” Because the human heart is very deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), we can easily fool ourselves about our own motives. We can pretend that we are choosing certain actions for God or the benefit of others, when in reality we have selfish reasons. God is not fooled by our selfishness and is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Human beings can operate from a variety of motivations, often negative. Pride, anger, revenge, a sense of entitlement, or the desire for approval can all be catalysts for our actions. Any motivation that originates in our sinful flesh is not pleasing to God (Romans 8:8). God even evaluates the condition of our hearts when we give offerings to Him (2 Corinthians 9:7). Selfish motives can hinder our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Because our hearts are so deceitful, we should constantly evaluate our own motives and be willing to be honest with ourselves about why we are choosing a certain action.

We can even preach and minister from impure motives (Philippians 1:17), but God is not impressed (Proverbs 21:27). Jesus spoke to this issue in Matthew 6:1 when He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Those involved in ministry must stay alert to this tendency toward selfishness, because ministry begun for pure reasons can quickly devolve into selfish ambition if we do not guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

So what is the right motivation? First Thessalonians 2:4 says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts” (NLT). God is interested in our motives even more than our actions. First Corinthians 4:5 says that, when Jesus comes again, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” God wants us to know that He sees what no one else sees. He knows why we do what we do and desires to reward those whose hearts are right toward Him. We can keep our motives pure by continually surrendering every part of our hearts to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some specific questions to help us evaluate our own motives:

1. If no one ever knows what I am doing (giving, serving, sacrificing), would I still do it?
2. If there was no visible payoff for doing this, would I still do it?
3. Would I joyfully take a lesser position if God asked me to?
4. Am I doing this for the praise of others or how it makes me feel?
5. If I had to suffer for continuing what God has called me to do, would I continue?
6. If others misunderstand or criticize my actions, will I stop?
7. If those whom I am serving never show gratitude or repay me in any way, will I still do it?
8. Do I judge my success or failure based upon my faithfulness to what God has asked me to do, or how I compare with others?

Personal satisfactions, such as taking a vacation or winning a competition, are not wrong in themselves. Motivation becomes an issue when we are not honest with ourselves about why we are doing things. When we give the outward appearance of obeying God but our hearts are hard, God knows. We are deceiving ourselves and others, too. The only way we can operate from pure motives is when we “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:1625). When we allow Him to control every part of us, then our desire is to please Him and not ourselves. Our flesh constantly clamors to exalt itself, and only when we walk in the Spirit will we not gratify those desires of our flesh. (Quote source here.)

The above information gives us plenty to think about regarding our own motivations as well as the motivations of others. Proverbs 21 is full of advise regarding our motives (the MSG version titles that chapter, “God Examines Our Motives). I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 21:2 (NIV)–A person may think their own ways are right…

But the Lord . . .

Weighs . . .

The heart . . . .

YouTube Video:  “Come Alive (Dry Bones)”– Lauren Daigle:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Technology and Our Relationship with God

Here’s a topic to consider–our relationship with technology and God. But first, let’s take a look at “the good, the bad, and the ugly” sides of technology (at least briefly for the purposes of this post). In an article titled, Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” published on March 10, 2017, by Elyse Freeman, Content Specialist at PennaPowers.com, she states:

There are pros and cons to everything in life, but one of the most talked about is technology. Most likely because technology is constantly evolving, and in doing so it consumes us more and more. Every new advancement intrigues us just a little bit more, which can be seen as good or bad depending on the way you look at it.

No matter what your feelings are regarding technology, it’s easy to agree that it would be hard to live without if it suddenly disappeared. We rely on technology so much now-a-days for communication, work, education, dating, staying in touch, shopping and much more. So what does that say about us? It isn’t completely a bad thing, but it isn’t necessarily a good thing either. So here’s the good, bad and the ugly of technology and what it says about us.

Good:

Without a doubt, technology is definitely good for us in numerous ways. The use of computers and smartphones allows us to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world, in seconds. Not to mention the fact that we don’t have to use paper maps anymore. You can type an address right into your phone and directions of how to get there immediately pop up right at your fingertips. If you don’t have time to run to the bank or the post office to pay a bill, no problem. Online banking allows you to pay bills, transfer money and even deposit checks now. Technology even provides education for people with the ability to complete college via online courses. The ability to find out family history and research ancestors is also a great resource technology allows us to use.

Using technology to teach others and spread positivity through acts such as, blogging, sharing quotes, motivational videos and more is also a great way to use technology. Pinterest and Facebook both provide inspiring and educational videos and photos for a number of things. A couple of the most popular and favorite ones are cooking and exercising videos and photos. However, you can find just about anything from home improvement projects, DIY projects, event planning, ‘how to’, fashion and much more online.

Bad:

According to CNN, Americans devote 10 hours a day to screen time. The more that technology evolves, the more addicted and reliant we become. While technology can be healthy and useful, we need to remember to use it in moderation. When is becomes valued as a necessity is when it becomes a problem. In today’s world, we hate to be bored. However, if you have a phone or a computer, you don’t have to worry about that, and that’s the problem. Any time we feel bored, what’s the first thing we do? Pull out our phone or computer and find something online to pass time. Instead of sitting in silence with our own thoughts or talking to someone next to us, we find more comfort in our devices. The things that draw us to our screen are anything from games, to social media, apps and even emails. There is always something new to see or learn online, whether that be a photo, video, article or something else, we don’t have to worry about missing out with our constant access to technology.

Ugly:

Although there are multiple ways that technology is good for us, there is also an ugly side to it. The truth is that not everyone who uses technology, uses it for the rights reasons. For example, instead of using the internet to learn, people use it to view or research inappropriate content. The fact that you can find anything on the internet, can be a good and a bad thing. When it comes to the bad things, people need to remember that just because it is available doesn’t mean you need to look at it or read about it. In addition to viewing inappropriate content, technology can also be used to threaten or bully others. With everyone using social media, it makes it almost impossible not to find someone online and reach out to them. While this can be a great way to stay in touch, not everyone uses it for that reason, causing the Internet to be a scary place for those who have been victims of bullying.

Technology has played a big role in our lives, and as it continues to evolve, it will only become more popular. So, it is your responsibility to stay up-to-date with technology and use it only for good. Technology is not the problem, how we use it is. The way we choose to use it and how often determines if it’s good or bad, and helpful or harmful. (Quote source here.)

Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the good/bad/ugly sides of technology, Dr. David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, and author, has written a series of articles on the subject of technology and our relationship with God. The following it taken from a summary on the series of articles published in 2018 (with links to each article included below) by Dr. Murray in an article titled, appropriately, Technology and Our Relationship with God.” In this article Dr. Murray states the following:

How do we thrive in Digital Babylon? That’s a question I’ve been asking for a long time and which I’ve begun to answer over a number of posts (click on each title to go to that post):

In that last post I proposed that the ultimate answer to digital technology is digital theology. I argued that:

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges. More Trinity is more effective than more technology.

However, we need more than more theology. We can have all the theology in the world without a relationship with God. The end is not deeper theology but a deeper relationship with God. The deeper and healthier our relationship with God, the more that satisfying friendship and communion will replace technology in our lives and also regulate it so that our use of it is more balanced and beneficial.

I’ve written elsewhere about 18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in a Digital Ageand also given 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in a Digital Age. But if you want just five tips that will give you the greatest return on investment it would be these:

1. Meet with God first and alone. Turn off your phone and avoid the computer before personal devotions. It’s absolutely vital that you meet with God before anyone else in the day. Keep your mind free of digital distractions.

2. Use a physical Bible. See Should I use a Phone for Personal Devotions for my argument against using digital devices for personal devotions. I would apply the same logic to using a paper Bible in Church too.

3. Use free moments to pray. Instead of reaching for your phone when at a traffic stop, in the bathroom, or in line, why not use these brief moments to pray.

4. Take a weekly digital Sabbath. Sunday is the ideal day to come apart from all the din and drama of the Internet and social media and set your mind and heart on things above. It will surprise you how little you miss, how little you are missed, and how much you will gain.

5. Memorize Scripture. Think how much Scripture you could memorize in a year if you even just halved the number of times you checked your email and social media.

Whatever ways help to deepen your relationship with God will also help to wean you off technology and help you use it in ways that glorify him.

Here’s a solemn message (YouTube video) that gets to the heart of this. (Quote source here.)

Since we are still in the first month of the new year, now is perhaps a good time to consider changing a few of our online habits, and even if you’re reading this at some other time during the year, any time is a good time to reconsider our propensity to be “joined at the hip” to our technology that, quite possibly, is interfering with our own personal relationship with God.

For those who might have struggles trying to disconnect more often from technology in their relationship with God, the following article from 2011 (a bit dated now but with some very good insights) might help. It is titled, Praying to God? There’s an App For That,” by Ashleigh Rainko, giving us a Millennial’s perspective at TNGG (The Next Great Generation):

Wait, you mean I have to physically attend Mass on Sunday?

We’re all looking for ways to cut on time, and lucky for us, the technological revolution is still going strong; more devices, mobile applications, e-books and the like are available to us in an expedient and ever-improving way that has simply never existed, especially in the Church.

From apps like iPieta to iRosary, conveniences such as these help us, a tech-savvy and efficiency-seeking generation, to remain faithful. Priests see congregates bring their iPhones into the confessional, for goodness sake–and not to check email!

Father Kevin Schroeder, 29-year-old associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, Missouri, explains, “It’s not like, oh, this [phone] is here to amuse me, or I’m bored. It’s actually becoming a tool for people to pray.”

Jack McCarthy, a 23-year-old business consultant, remarks, “I tend to check verses, prayers and readings more often than I otherwise would [without an app].”

In order for apps and such progressive technology to truly affect one’s faithful lifestyle, a symbiotic relationship must exist between the Church, the individual and technology. If the congregates are embracing this resource to have a closer and more active relationship with God, isn’t it the Church’s responsibility to encourage it and make it a part of the practice?

“I have a paper version [of the Bible], but never read it,” says McCarthy. “I almost always use my phone – even in church, which has a partnership with the YouVersion app. The verses from the sermon automatically load when you type in a code, as well as summaries, discussion questions, and more.”

Yes, apps and such technology have the potential of keeping us faithful–and saving a few trees in the process–but more so, possibly enable us to re-connect with our faith.  With 26 percent of Millennials reporting to be unaffiliated with a religion, what if these apps affected that number?

Louise Lloyd Owen, a 23-year-old PR professional, responds, “I’ve downloaded [religious apps] to look at them but never officially used [them].”

Similarly, Alison Denton, a 24-year-old magazine sales planner replies, “Nope, I haven’t used a religious app, but I have used the dream interpreter app on my iPad…that counts, right?!”

Perhaps these apps, albeit progressive, are missing that luster, but could in time be appealing and inspiring enough to be an avenue to a religious tradition.

What’s surprising, however, is our use (or lack thereof) of Bible apps.

From a quick poll, I found that most of my religious friends–apart from McCarthy–prefer reading the Bible in its paper edition, though hanging their heads and admittedly labeling themselves “old school.”

While the Bible app is certainly convenient, portable and useful, most report they prefer to use it only when in small group sessions or in a pinch; like most of us, reading a news article on our phones is fine, but the larger screen–be it an iPad or laptop–is much more conducive and easier to read.

And that’s not to mention the fact that it’s extremely hard to focus when you’re reading a serious text on a handheld device.

“It’s very cool to be able to access a Bible via the internet on your phone, but I would get way too distracted,” said Audrey Oh, a 24-year-old law professional. “Reading my Bible is a way to disconnect from the daily buzz, focus on God and grow spiritually; it would be difficult to achieve that as I see my phone blow up from texts, tweets, emails, et cetera.”

Beyond the (non)-usability perspective, one must factor in the deep-rooted spiritual connection with the text itself.

“The Bible is also a sacred text,” Oh continues. “There’s something special and authentic about holding it in your hands.”

Apps and e-Bibles allow us greater access to our faith in a portable fashion; however, the trouble is that people often think that these tools replace religion, rites, sacraments and attending Mass or church services at all.

But that’s likely consequential of our Millennial ideals: redefinition, instantaneous, complete transparency, innovation, technology.

How will this affect the future? Time will certainly tell, but it would have been pretty interesting to have seen and tracked the Reformation via Twitter, Facebook and apps. Just imagine what is possible for the next revolution in the Church with this endless supply of technological support and communication. (Quote source here.)

As we all know, it’s easy in our fast paced techie world to push God off into a corner whether intentionally or unintentionally. There are just way too many things distracting us today that divert our attention, so it takes a concerted effort to pause and reflect (it helps to turn off the smartphone while doing this or at least put it in airplane mode for a while). However, it is well worth the time. Some excellent suggestions on how to take a break from technology can be found in this June 2017 article titled, Want to Take a Break from Technology? Here Are Easy Ways to Unplug and Why It Is Necessary,” by Benjamin Renfo at JustPorter.org. Click here to go to that article.

I’ll end this blog post with the greatest invitation that Jesus gave to us found in Matthew 11:28-30 that requires no app or technology (but can be read on both): Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. . . .

For my yoke is easy . . .

And my burden . . .

Is light . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

God Knows All About Us

So, how is your New Year going so far now that we are almost half way through January? Mine has been fairly quiet. Even my muse seems to be taking a rest from the surge of blog posts I published on both of my blogs in December. It’s been rather relaxing, and nothing feels overly pressing at the moment. And, since I made no New Year’s resolutions for this year, the pressure is off to keep them going… 🙂

Ten days ago I found a small, nicely bound copy in red faux leather of The Psalms and Proverbs in a version of the Bible I was unfamiliar with–The Passion Translation, 2017, by Dr. Brian Simmons, Bible teacher, linguist, minister, and former missionary; and published by Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC. It was a brand new copy priced at $10.00 (originally $25.00) at Half Price Books, and I just love finding a great bargain price on books.

If you are interested in finding out more about The Passion Translation, here is a link to the following article titled, Revealing the Heart of God in ‘The Passion Translation,'” by Beth Patch, Senior Spiritual Life Internet producer/editor at CBN.comAnother article titled, “The Passion ‘Translation’ Debate: Brian Simmons Responds,” by Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor at King’s Church in London, for those familiar with the debate regarding The Passion Translation, is available at this link. There is also version information located at BibleGateway.com at this link.

The Psalms has always been my “go to” book in the Bible whenever I’m feeling–well–any particular emotion whether I’m happy or sad or confused or elated or joyful or doubtful or (fill in the blank). The introduction in another book I found in December (for half price!) at LifeWay Christian Bookstore titled, 100 Days in The Psalms,” by B&H Publishing Group editorial staff, states the following regarding the Book of Psalms:

The placement of the psalms at the center of the Bible is most certainly no happy accident of bookmaking physics. This collection of worship songs, desperate prayers, angry tirades, and hope-filled declarations–in many ways they represent the natural output that should flow from all the story and teaching that exist on either side of it in Scripture.

The psalms document the believer’s struggle. They celebrate the believer’s triumph. They dig deeply into the believer’s heart. And in the end, they praise the believer’s God. They cover just about all the bases of the believer’s life.

So while you’ve most likely had at least some experience and exposure to everything you’re about to read from this intensely personal, poetic book of Scripture, prepare to visit themes that will strike you with a right-this-morning flavor of relevance.

For whether you choose to read them one a day, or a couple a week, or at whatever speed you choose to take it, you’ll be keeping the Word in the center of each moment.

Since the psalms are what you’re reading, you’ll know God will probably be getting even more central with you than that. (Quote source: “100 Days in The Psalms,” Introduction, page 1.)

Now that I’ve gotten the above out of the way as an introduction, this afternoon I picked up my red faux leather covered copy of The Psalms and Proverbs and opened it to where the page marker ribbon was located, which was at the beginning of Psalm 139. This particular psalm is where the title of this blog post came from. It is a psalm attributed to King David and it is subtitled, in The Passion Translation version, “You Know All About Me.”

Now perhaps you are someone who is thinking, “But I don’t want God to know all about me.” Or maybe you don’t even believe in God at all, or maybe you’re like me, and you’ve been walking this road called life as a believer for a very long time, and that is why the psalms have become your “go to” place like they have become mine when I honestly don’t know where else to turn, or when I just need an encouraging word, or to be reminded that God doesn’t miss anyone or anything that is going on in this world of ours. So today I opened this new translation and read Psalm 139, and here is what it has to say to me and to you, too:

Lord, you know everything there is to know about me.

You perceive every movement of my heart and soul,
    and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
    You read my heart like an open book
    and you know all the words I’m about to speak
    before I even start a sentence!
    You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.

You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,
    and in kindness you follow behind me
    to spare me from the harm of my past.
    With your hand of love upon my life,
    you impart a blessing to me.

This is just too wonderful, deep, and incomprehensible!
    Your understanding of me brings me wonder and strength.

Where could I go from your Spirit?
    Where could I run and hide from your face?

If I go up to heaven, you’re there!
    If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too!

If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there!
    If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting!

Wherever I go, your hand will guide me;
    your strength will empower me.

It’s impossible to disappear from you
    or to ask the darkness to hide me,
    for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.

There is no such thing as darkness with you.
    The night, to you, is as bright as the day;
    there’s no difference between the two.

You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
    and my intricate outside,
    and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
    Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
    It simply amazes me to think about it!
    How thoroughly you know me, Lord!

You even formed every bone in my body
    when you created me in the secret place,
    carefully, skillfully shaping me[f] from nothing to something.

You saw who you created me to be before I became me!
    Before I’d ever seen the light of day,
    the number of days you planned for me
    were already recorded in your book.

Every single moment you are thinking of me!
    How precious and wonderful to consider
    that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
    O God, your desires toward me are more
    than the grains of sand on every shore!
    When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

O God, come and slay these bloodthirsty, murderous men!
    For I cry out, “Depart from me, you wicked ones!”

See how they blaspheme your sacred name
    and lift up themselves against you, but all in vain!

Lord, can’t you see how I despise those who despise you?
    For I grieve when I see them rise up against you.

I have nothing but complete hatred and disgust for them.
    Your enemies shall be my enemies!

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart.
    Examine me through and through;
    find out everything that may be hidden within me.
    Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.

See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
    and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways—
    the path that brings me back to you. (Source: Psalm 139, TPT.)

One of the differences I see between the times of King David in the Old Testament and how we are to live as believers since Jesus arrived in the New Testament and taught us to love our enemies is just that–loving our enemies instead of hating them. So when I run into any verses from the Old Testament like verses 19-22 in Psalm 139 above referencing hating our enemies (the text of those four verses is in gray type above), I always remember that Jesus came and changed that when he told us to love our enemies in Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36, and to remember to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). The words of Jesus in the Matthew portion states:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”Matthew 5:43:48, NIV

In an imperfect world in which we live, I find the words in Psalm 139 typed above in blue type to be of great comfort. I have no idea what it’s like to not believe since I have believed in God and Jesus Christ since I was a young girl. Lots of people have believed as kids especially here in America where there is a church located on almost every street corner, and yet many have walked away from it as adults or tucked it away in their back pockets somewhere as they lived their lives on their own terms. And it’s not that I didn’t have my moments when I was younger or falter on many occasions or that my knees don’t still grow weak or knock at times from all that is going on in our culture, and especially during what has occurred in my own life in the past decade, but I have never lost my faith in the God of Psalm 139 and the rest of the Bible.

Mockers are always out there (even among the Christian crowd); however, they have always been out there, too. Folks who don’t understand or don’t want to understand can ridicule relentlessly, but where do they turn when the bottom falls out of their own lives? I sometimes ponder that question when I find myself in the midst of those who don’t believe or mock what they can’t possibly understand because of their own lack of faith. Of course, there is a lot of stuff going on in our society today, too, and there is no way to comprehend it all.

So my “go to” book is the Psalms; and maybe it’s yours, too. There you will find every human emotion possible splashed across it’s pages. You can let your hair down reading the psalms and not have to worry about “doing the right thing” according to whoever is the latest person to frown in your direction because you don’t measure up to whatever standard they are measuring you by. Church can be a hard place to go sometimes, but God never is, and you’ll find Him in the psalms.

So, if you’re still contemplating making a late New Year’s resolution, maybe you can add getting to know the God of the Psalms. I can think of no better place to run to in good times and in bad.

I’ll end this post with the opening verses from Psalm 121 (verses 1 and 2), NIV: I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord . . .

The Maker . . .

Of heaven and earth . . . .

YouTube Video: “Psalm 139–Far Too Wonderful” by Shane and Shane:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Happy New Year 2019

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), a  BohemianAustrian poet and novelist.

Yes, another brand new year has just begun, and I can think of no better way to start it off then with a blog post I published on October 23, 2018, on my other blog, Reflections,” titled, May the Road Rise Up to Meet You.” Here is what I wrote:

I ran across this Irish blessing (see below) and YouTube video (click hereit’s a very cool video 4:35 minutes long and nice piano music starts at 2:01) this morning, and I thought I would post both here on my “journey” blog. Here’s a little background information on the blessing:

This traditional Irish blessing is an ancient Celtic prayer. Celtic literature is famed for using images of nature and everyday life to speak of how God interacts with with His people.

“May the Road Rise Up to Meet You”
 is about God’s blessing for your journey–may your walk be an easy one–with no huge mountains to climb or obstacles to overcome. It alludes to three images from nature – the windsun and rain – as pictures of God’s care and provision. The “wind” can be likened to the Spirit of God, who came as a “mighty wind” at
 Pentecost. The sun’s warmth in the prayer reminds us of the tender mercies of God, “by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” (Luke 1:78, NIV), whilst the soft falling rain speaks of God’s provision and sustenance. Finally, we are reminded that we are held safe in God’s loving hands as we travel on our journey through life. (Quote source here.)

Here is that Irish blessing:

May the Road
Rise Up to Meet You

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back. 
May the sun shine warm upon your face; 
The rains fall soft upon your fields 
And until we meet again, 
May God hold you
In the palm of His hand.

(Quote source here.)

There are four Irish blessings on the website where I found this copy of the Irish blessing above. Here is some additional information on Irish blessings taken from that website titled Lords-prayer-words.com:

One of the main characteristics of Celtic Christianity (approximately from the fourth to the seventh century A.D.) is that of a strong connection between the spiritual (what is godly and heavenly) and the earthly (nature and living). In Ireland, St Patrick established monasteries that were hubs of community life, were both monks and married people lived and worked together. The “cities” (as St. Patrick liked to call them) also often produced beautiful art and craft. The prayer life of the early Celts reflects these aspects of life together and closeness to nature, and is some of the most inspirational church liturgy in existence.

In recent times, Celtic spirituality has witnessed something of a revival in the modern day church. There are now thriving celtic communities (such as the Northumberland Communityand hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and other, more modern songs based on celtic writing have become popular in contemporary worship. (Quote source here.)

Lords-prayer-words.com includes an extensive resource of traditional and contemporary Christian prayers. As noted on the website:

Central to this site is ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ as this is where Jesus, the great master and Lord of all, teaches us how to pray. Here you can discover many versions and translations of this famous prayer, as well as commentaries and interpretations on the ‘Our Father’ by several classic biblical scholars and theologians. The site is also packed with other free resources on prayer – with videos to meditate on and several hundred prayers on topics such as healingstrengthprayers for children and for various times and occasions. (Quote source here.)

And, of course, what New Year’s Eve celebration would be complete without singing the song “Auld Lang Syne” (see YouTube Video below) to welcome in the New Year at midnight. In an article published on December 29, 2017 titled, The Real Reason People Sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ on New Year’s Eve,” by Olivia B. Waxman, staff reporter at Time.com and Time Magazine, she writes:

When the clock strikes midnight at the end of December 31, the first thing many New Year’s Eve revelers are likely to hear — if the noisemakers haven’t ruined their hearing yet — is the song “Auld Lang Syne.”

It’s not clear who exactly composed the music for the Scottish folk song, which has a long history of being sung to mark the end of something — or even how best to interpret the meaning of the song’s Scots language title, which is often attributed to the poet Robert Burns and could be literally translated as “Old Long Since.” (The Scottish government goes with the popular “for old times’ sake.”) What is clear is that Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo helped make it a New Year’s Eve tradition in the United States.

Long before Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve became an end-of-year entertainment tradition, there was the New Year’s Eve concert hosted by Lombardo, “the last great dance-band leader,” as TIME once called him.

“His New Year‘s Eve concerts in New York City, which began in 1929, became an institution,” the magazine noted in his 1977 obituary. “First on radio, then TV, Lombardo‘s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” marked the nation’s rite of passage from the old year to the new.” (Quote source here.)

And here is a link to an entertaining article published on December 31, 2018, titled, Long Before Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve,’ Guy Lombardo was the King of New Year’s Eve,” by Joel Keller at Decider.com. In the opening to his article, Keller writes:

Dick Clark had an extraordinarily long run ringing in the New Year on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” From 1972 until his death in 2012, he hosted the ball drop in Times Square—first on NBC for two years, then on ABC—only missing one year in 2005, right after he had a stroke. Forty years is a long time, but do you know who had an even longer run? Guy Lombardo.

Lombardo and his Royal Canadians big band hosted New Year’s Eve festivities for 48 years, first on radio, then on television. Think about that time span: When he started at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1929, radio was just in its infancy; by the time he led the band for the last time, in 1976 (he died in November of 1977), CBS was broadcasting the festivities across the country in living color.

The show pretty much never changed. Lots of elegant people dining and dancing, with Lombardo leading the Royal Canadians to play classic waltzes and other danceable songs. At midnight, he led the band in “Auld Lang Syne.” (Quote source here.)

And history was made that New Year’s Eve in 1929 when Lombardo and his big band first played “Auld Lang Syne.” “The song begins by posing a rhetorical question: Is it right that old times be forgotten? The answer is generally interpreted as a call to remember long-standing friendships.” (Quote source here.)

While the words to the song are often a blur as in mumbling along as we sing because we aren’t sure of them, Wikipedia provides the actual English version of the words as follows (the words in bold type are from the YouTube Video at the end of this post):

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of old lang syne?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
That
 gives a hand to thine!

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
(Quote source from video below–
words in bold type in video–and here.)

“Auld Lang Syne”–for friendship and old times’ sake. And who couldn’t use a cup of kindness to toast in another new year to friendships old and new and yet to be made in this new year.

I’ll end this post with a few words from “Auld Lang Syne” to bring in this brand new year of 2019…

Let’s take a cup . . .

Of kindness yet . . .

For auld lang syne . . . .

YouTube Video: “Auld Lang Syne” by Home Free:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here